Saturday, April 17, 2010

"A day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer"

American legislative bodies have, since before the Republic was established, asked Americans to pray for their country. In times of crisis and times of peace and prosperity Presidents from Washington to FDR to Obama have issued calls to prayer. This one was from Abraham Lincoln in 1863:
...[W]hereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. ....
But, responding to a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in my hometown, a Federal District Court Judge has found, after all these years, that a national day of prayer is unconstitutional:
A federal judge in Wisconsin declared Thursday that the US law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

US District Judge Barbara Crabb said the federal statute violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion.

She issued a 66-page decision and enjoined President Obama from issuing an executive order calling for the celebration of a National Day of Prayer. ....
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is happy. The Baptist Joint Committee [with which my denomination is still unfortunately affiliated] is happy. This is another absurdly extreme application of the extra-constitutional "wall of separation" doctrine. Nobody can ever be compelled to pray. Hearing a prayer is not praying. No one's liberty is is compromised by hearing or reading. This is an effort, once again, to shove religion into the closet.

Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, Federal judge: National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com