Franklin Graham and the National Day of Prayer

This year’s National Day of Prayer event certainly caused quite the stir.  It all began with the Wisconsin judge declaring the government’s proclamation of a National Day of Prayer unconstitutional and then continued when Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins were disinvited to participate in the Pentagon’s ceremonies over the controversial views of both ministers.  The Religious Right has  been highly critical of both decisions and have been declaring them just two more examples of how our religious freedom in this nation is being eroded, particularly the religious freedom of Christians. 

This whole event is a perfect example of why it is necessary to keep government out of religion and vice versa.  I’ve posted before about Madison’s and Jefferson’s views on issuing proclamations of days of thanksgiving and prayers and their other views of church and state relationships.  I firmly believe that both men would have firmly agreed with the decision of Judge Crabb and would have urged the Pentagon to cancel the whole event entirely were they alive today.  Both men argued that when government shows any type of favor to one religion those who are left out of that favor are demeaned and devalued and their adherent’s equal rights diminished.  Even though Graham and Perkins were disinvited, ministers from the Roman Catholic church, various protestant churches, Judaism and Islam still participated in the ceremony.  Christianity itself wasn’t discriminated against, however, a particular form of Christianity was and this is the very reason why no National Day of Prayer should take place at all which involves any type of government participation whatsoever.  No matter how hard the government tried to include all religions in the day’s ceremonies, some were still left out and their adherent’s made to feel less equal than the other religious viewpoints that were allowed to participate. 

Religion is a divisive influence in society.  It does not bring people together.  There were those in the religious right who fought to keep this day intact and there were those among the same religious right who felt the day was nothing more than an ecumenical orgy of heresy.  Religion is divisive even among its practitioners and therefore the government needs to say out of it and we need to keep religion out of government. 

I think it is also ironic that among all the outcries of religious persecution and discrimination we saw as a result of the judical ruling and the disinvitation of Graham and Perkins, that Franklin Graham was still able to hold his own prayer service/media event on the very sidewalks in front of the Pentagon (if that’s not the public square I don’t know what is )without being arrested, detained or otherwise obstructed by the government.  Regardless of the ranting of the religious right, we still live in a country of immense religious freedom.


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