Thursday, May 5, 2011
2011 National Day of Prayer....
With all due respect to last year's finding by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, if the National Day of Prayer does represent government endorsement of a religious message, it need not be an improper (unlawful) kind of endorsement.
Certainly government may endorse religion a little bit, so long as the gesture of endorsement regards various religions and philosophies equally, without any favoritism. Nothing to it, really: In order to keep the twofold promise of constitutional religious liberty, government must follow the example of Jefferson and make a point of acknowledging diversity. He spoke of a religious freedom so invested in the principle of equality as to remember "Jew and Gentile…Christian and Mohammedan…Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination." What could be clearer and fairer as a basis for religious freedom?
The first words of the Bill of Rights are not ambiguous but very clearly mean to guarantee no legal "establishment" of one religion or another, and at the same time to guarantee no legal hindrance to "free exercise thereof."
The National Day of Prayer is our chance to put this into practice, but there are only two possible scenarios for lawful public observance of prayer at a government venue such as the steps of City Hall. Either no religion is represented, or else all of them. Done right, a National Day of Prayer event is very American-looking, with prayers of every sort included: Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Pagan, Buddhist, Baha'i, and so on. Indeed, Jefferson's term "Infidel" would appear to prescribe a reasonable level of respect for Atheism, that "religion" that repudiates superstition, holding reason and humanistic values supreme. Why shouldn't that creed advocate on the National Day as well, declaring rational practice better for America than prayer? In this way, everyone might enjoy equal treatment in the matter. Let freedom so ring!
The Interfaith Council's observance of the National Day of Prayer (Minter Park Downtown at noon, Thursday May 5) is the one that properly affirms and celebrates religious freedom.
photo courtesy of: sacredartstudio.net interfaith peace mandala
at 10:23 AM