National Day of Mourning for the First Amendment

For my international readers, today was the National Day of Prayer here in the US.

“National Day of Prayer?” You say, “But I thought you had separation of Chuch and State?”

Yeah, so did I. Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains the problem:

In recent years, religious broadcaster James Dobson and his wife Shirley have assumed a leadership role in promoting the observance. Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Focus on the Family Action are Religious Right organizations that oppose church-state separation and seek to impose a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint through government action.

“James Dobson has shamelessly exploited the National Day of Prayer to advance his divisive political agenda,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This merger of religion and politics is exactly what our nation’s founding fathers hoped to avoid.”

Lynn noted that James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, said governmental prayer proclamations “certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion” and warned that public officials would use such proclamations to advance their political agenda. Thomas Jefferson, as president, refused to issue prayer proclamations and said the Constitution forbids the federal government from “intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”

Lynn noted that this year, Mrs. Dobson even boasts about her group sponsoring the “National Day of Prayer Official Website,” although she does not say who gave the group this designation. (The Dobsons usually travel to the White House for an NDP observance there with President George W. Bush, although Bush has not given the NDP Task Force an official character.)

The NDP Task Force encourages local groups to exclude non-fundamentalist Christians from NDP events. The NDP Web site goes so far as to assert that only Christian groups that endorse the Lausanne Covenant, an evangelical statement from the 1970s, should be invited to take part.

“The Dobsons’ events are deeply divisive,” said Lynn. “They intentionally exclude millions of Americans who differ with the Religious Right’s narrow religious and political agenda.”

Myself, I spent the day praying for the first amendment. These days, it’s on life support.

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