Thursday, April 22, 2010
National Day of Prayer Need Not Be Unconstitutional....
On April 15, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. She is mistaken, of course. Presidents and Congress have violated no one's rights in proclaiming this patriotic holiday. If there has been a civil liberties problem associated with the official (city hall or courthouse) observance in some communities, it is only because churches have been allowed to commandeer the affair and make it Christian-only, and that is vexingly contrary to the "no establishment" clause of the First Amendment.
The City of Abilene has wisely heeded this plain point and has had fair and lawful National Day of Prayer events in the two ways that it can be done. In 2005, wonderfully enough, a City Hall observance was conducted by the Interfaith Council and featured Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Bahá'í and Universalist prayers. It was very right and very American to have the community officially embrace religious diversity like that -- but then we were just as appropriate last year in having no ceremony at City Hall, the faithful gathering at one park or another for their observances, respectively inclusive and exclusive. That way, too, the principle of constitutional religious liberty was maintained.
Though the latter method with no ceremony at City Hall might appear more satisfactory to Atheists, nonbelievers in prayer could very well participate, too, show up to be heard and respected for their philosophy that the religions are mistaken and that rationality and a humanistic ethic are more beneficial. Free exercise, thus, for Atheism as well. How generous and liberal is the spirit of the constitution, if we care to step up and claim the blessings!
Judge Crabb's well-meaning decision was a bit wrongheaded, but not as whacked as the rumor, spilling across the Internet at about the same time, that the National Day of Prayer for 2010 had been canceled by the president! That farcical myth obviously germinated out there on the fringes, where (ahem) informed and thoughtful folks take this president for the Antichrist.
As this good society advances, our freedoms may develop and refine and adjust to suit the idea of equality, but there is no reason to expect a capricious about-face -- especially while we have an administration so nimble of wit as to comprehend liberty and equality at the same time.
at 3:26 PM