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.