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.