National Day of Prayer ruling could provide boost in Oklahoma

BY CARLA HINTON Modified: May 1, 2010 at 1:40 am •  Published: May 1, 2010

Despite legal challenges to the National Day of Prayer, numerous activities are planned across Oklahoma to observe the designated prayer day.

And many local coordinators said there seems to be more interest in the prayer activities this year.

"I think this year, because of the negative publicity, there’s more interest in it here in Kingfisher,” Kingfisher coordinator Mary Bowerman said this week.

National Day of Prayer will be Thursday.

Prayer services are planned outside government buildings such as the state Capitol, courthouses and city halls.

Gatherings also are scheduled to take place in city parks, churches and private schools. One prayer event is set near the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

The theme for the 59th observance is "Prayer for Such a Time as This.”

In April, a federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, from Wisconsin’s Western District Court, ruled that the government cannot enact laws supporting a day of prayer and use its authority to influence an individual’s decision "whether and when to pray.”

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.

Crabb’s ruling came as a response to a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based group of atheists and agnostics. In its 2008 lawsuit filed against the federal government, the group argued that the day violates the principle of separation of church and state.

Crabb wrote that her ruling does not prohibit National Day of Prayer observances until all appeals are exhausted, and the U.S. Justice Department has said it will appeal her ruling.

"We are saddened by the judge’s ruling but excited about the events,” Bowerman said.

Bowerman said the three National Day of Prayer activities hosted by the Kingfisher Ministerial Alliance and sponsored by Kingfisher businesses include a men’s prayer breakfast, women’s luncheon and youth rally. She said the luncheon and youth rally draw about 200 people, while about 100 men typically attend the breakfast — and she’s expecting more.


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NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

Challenges

The National Day of Prayer and its advocates have drawn challenges and support in recent weeks:

Early April: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation sends a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates raising objections about Christian evangelist Franklin Graham’s inclusion in the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service, due to past disparaging comments he made about Islam. After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Graham said Islam "is a very wicked and evil religion.” Religious Freedom Foundation leaders said the invitation to Graham offended Muslim employees of the Pentagon because the evangelist did not retract or apologize for his statements. Graham is honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

April 15: U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, from Wisconsin’s Western District Court, rules that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

April 15: The Obama administration, in a Twitter message, says President Obama intends to recognize this year’s National Day of Prayer with a proclamation. A White House spokesman confirms the announcement.

April 21: The Congressional Prayer Caucus announces its support for the National Day of Prayer.

April 21: The U.S. Army rescinds an invitation to Graham to speak at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer Service. Army officials said the Pentagon did not extend the invitation to Graham, rather it came from the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, which works with the Pentagon chaplain’s office on the annual prayer event.

April 22: The U.S. Justice Department files a formal notice of appeal, saying it will challenge Judge Crabb’s ruling on the National Day of Prayer.

April 26: The Council on American-Islamic Relations asks congressional leaders to rescind an invitation for Graham to speak at the National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill. Graham is set to speak at the event to be held at the Cannon House Office Building. The event is hosted by the evangelical Christian National Day of Prayer Task Force.

SOURCES: The Associated Press, Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Local events
→For National Day of Prayer events across the state, go online to www.nationaldayofprayer.org.

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