Hope everyone’s enjoying some delicious folded hands-shaped cookies to celebrate the holiday today. The annual observance was started by Harry Truman and signed into existence by presidential proclamation by every president since. Obama signed his proclamation earlier today (full text after the jump). But that hasn’t stopped news outlets from implying that he’s a little, ahem, anti-prayer:
“Obama is scaling back plans for Thursday’s National Day of Prayer…” (Chicago Tribune)
“Obama to be Prayer Day No-Show” (Washington Times)
What does Obama have against prayer? Nothing, it turns out. He’s doing exactly what George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and every other president did to recognize the day until George W. Bush came along. For the second President Bush, the National Day of Prayer became an occasion to invite members of the National Day of Prayer Task Force–headed up by James Dobson’s wife Shirley–and other religious conservatives to the White House for a tend-to-the-base event.
The task force caused quite a kerfuffle in 2004 when they decreed that only Christians (and preferably evangelical Christians) could lead prayers at the events they’d organized around the country. That didn’t go down well with Mormons, among others. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations doesn’t seem too sad to see the Bush-era event retired, either–a blog post on the organization’s website is titled “Obama Does Day of Prayer Differently…And That’s Okay.”
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2009
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Throughout our Nation’s history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer. In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer. Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance.
It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Let us remember those who came before us, and let us each give thanks for the courage and compassion shown by so many in this country and around the world.
On this day of unity and prayer, let us also honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. We celebrate their commitment to uphold our highest ideals, and we recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience.
Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill. Our world grows smaller by the day, and our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife; and to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2009, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon Americans to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independent of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.