National Day of Prayer — or Politics?

Nine years ago the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released a report showing how religious-right groups had hijacked the National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Prayer: Turning a Day of Faith into a Rally for the Christian Right examined how organizations like the National Day of Prayer Task Force and Focus on the Family as well as right-wing politicians had turned the day for bringing people of faith together in prayer into simply an opportunity to promote a political agenda.

Thursday’s National Day of Prayer event in Washington, D.C., showed how right-wingers are still politicizing the day.

Huffington Post reports that U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., walked out of the event at the U.S. Capitol after James Dobson — founder of religious-right group Focus on the Family — used his speaking slot to attack President Obama. Dobson called Obama the “abortion president” and read from a letter in which he denounced the Affordable Care Act and provisions dealing with birth control and women’s health care:

“So come and get me, Mr. President, if you must. I will not yield to your wicked regulations.”

HuffPost reports that Hahn was offended by the Dobson’s betrayal of the purpose of the day:

“He goes on about health care and … providing abortions, and at that point I stood up and I pointed my finger at Dr. Dobson and I said, ‘This is inappropriate!’ and walked out,” Hahn told HuffPost.

“Dobson just blew a hole into this idea of being a nonpartisan National Day of Prayer. It was very disturbing to me … and really a shame,” Hahn, the co-chair of the weekly congressional prayer breakfast, added. “James Dobson hijacked the National Day of Prayer — this nonpartisan, nonpolitical National Day of Prayer — to promote his own distorted political agenda.”

Good for Rep. Hahn. You can read the HuffPost story here.

Presidents and other elected officials from both major political parties as well as many other Americans from diverse faith traditions have participated in National Day of Prayer events over the years. Unfortunately, religious-right leaders (and allied politicians) arrogantly see the day as an opportunity to use faith as a political weapon to divide Americans. Like Rep. Hahn, we should all call them out for doing do so. Shame on them.

8 thoughts on “National Day of Prayer — or Politics?

    1. Oh yes it does!!! It is a very public event where news media people can show up. The idea is not just for people to talk to God but to have people SEE them talking to God.

      This is one reason I do not like it when “fundies” pray in restaurants before they eat. They do not just do it because they are thankful for their food. They want people to see how faithful they are. It is a public demonstration that they are separate from everyone else, more faithful than everyone else, and more special than everyone else. In addition, they hope that some moron will walk over to their table and say:

      “Excuse me. I just saw you engaging in some unusual practice before you ate. Can you tell me about that?”

      Then they will ask him to sit down and eat with them so they can spread their peculiar view of the gospel. The thing they will never tell him is that if he had not walked over and asked his question, they would not have even given him even the time of day because he is ONE OF THEM. Other than witnessing, they must keep their everyday lives separate from him because they are more special than other human beings, and he is a piece of walking trash that might contaminate their purity.

      Pray like Jesus said. Be thankful to Jesus every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every month of every year of every decade of every century in all that you do. Then you have no need for special demonstrations. Jesus knows.

      1. I am an atheist, but when I was a Christian we did pray in restaurants before meals, and it was not a show of any kind. In fact, I found it embarrassing, but family usually insisted (still do, actually) that we must do this despite the awkwardness of it, because we owed thanks to our god for the meal and our family, etc. They simply believed that you never, ever eat without praying first.

        I agree with you 100% about the National Day of Prayer — it’s purely for the fundies to foster an us-versus-them mentality among their followers, and to show how pious they themselves are.

    2. The verse he referenced is about NOT praying publicly, not making a show of ones praying.

  1. I was unaware that it had ever been anything BUT hijacked. I only heard of its existence AFTER the Right had hijacked religion in general.