Inclusive Prayer Day

People of Many Faith Traditions Calling For an Inclusive National Day of Prayer

Respones to & Reflections on the National Day of Prayer

The Inclusive Prayer Day Home Page, May 7, 2009

May 7, 2009. Our campaign applauds President Barack Obama's inclusive proclamation today of the National Day of Prayer. JewsOnFirst.org, the parent organization of the campaign for an Inclusive National Day of Prayer, welcomed President Obama's open-hearted proclamation with its focus on unity for the benefit of our nation. JewsOnFirst.org and the Interfaith Alliance wrote to President Obama last month requesting just such an inclusive approach and also asking the president not to issue a separate proclamation for the exclusivist fundamentalist Christian group linked to Focus on the Family that has hijacked the annual observance. We thank everyone who joined our campaign and wrote to the president. Please click here to read President Obama's statement and a responding statement from the Interfaith Alliance.

Help Get President Obama Onboard! Jews on First and Interfaith Alliance have jointly sent a letter to President Obama requesting his endorsement of an Inclusive Day of Prayer on May 7th to help counter the exclusivist National Day of Prayer promoted by Shirley Dobson and the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The letter requests the President Obama restore the day to its original meaning, as a day of prayer and mediation for all people. Read the origninal letter and then send your own letter of support through the Interfaith Alliance.

Of Politics And Piety: How I Spent My National Day Of Prayer

By Ilana Stern, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, May 8, 2009

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer (NDP). He called on Americans to "to pray in thanksgiving for our freedoms and blessings and to ask for God's continued guidance, grace, and protection for this land that we love."

Obama saluted the men and women of the armed forces and added, "We recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience." [Full Article]

Prayer Day receives ecumenical treatment

Globe Staff, The Boston Globe, May 8, 2009

President Obama's latest break from his predecessor drew ire among some Christian groups.

While President Bush held formal events in the White House each year to mark the National Day of Prayer, Obama opted yesterday for a private observance and a decidedly ecumenical proclamation. The proclamation cites the "one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule and its call to love one another, to understand one another, and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth." [Full Article]

Dobson 'Disappointed' Obama Skipped Day of Prayer Ceremony

By Hamil R. Harris, The Washington Post, May 7, 2009

Evangelical author and radio host James Dobson said that he is "disappointed" that for the first time in nearly two decades there was no representative from the White House during the National Day of Prayer event.

"I have not asked to meet with the president and certainly he has not asked to meet with me, but I would just like this country to remember its foundation, to remember its heritage and honor it, especially on the day set aside by George Washington in the beginning for prayer in this country," he said. "And I would hope that that would have occurred." [Full Article]

Obama's People-Focused Prayer Day Proclamation vs. Bush's God-Focused One

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country, U.S. News & World Report, May 7, 2009

I was struck that President Obama's proclamation for today's National Day of Prayer (text below) features a solitary reference to God. Last year's proclamation for prayer day from George W. Bush featured five references to God in the first paragraph alone. There were 15 mentions of God-as the Almighty, Father, the Lord, he, and his-throughout Bush's final prayer-day proclamation.

Whereas Bush's last proclamation focused on the one being prayed to, Obama's focuses on the people doing the praying. Take the first paragraph of today's proclamation: [Full Article]

Obama's 2009 NDP Proclamation & Responses

President Obama's National Day of Prayer Proclamation

Released Thursday, May 7, 2009

Throughout our Nation's history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer. In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer. Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance.

It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Let us remember those who came before us, and let us each give thanks for the courage and compassion shown by so many in this country and around the world. [Read The Full Proclamation]

Interfaith Alliance Praises President's National Day of Prayer Proclamation

Interfaith Alliance Press Release, Thursday, May 7, 2009

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to the proclamation issued this afternoon by President Obama for the National Day of Prayer:

President Obama did the right thing today by issuing a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer that is inclusive of all Americans. We must cherish the freedom in this country to pray or not to pray.

The reality is that we don't need our elected leaders to instruct us in the ways of religion just as we don't need our religious leaders to tell us for whom to vote. However, if we are going to have such a day, I am glad to see that this president understands that it should be inclusive. [Full Release]

Welton Gaddy on the Rachel Maddow Show

Rev. Dr. Gaddy (president of Interfaith Alliance) appeared on the Rachel Maddow show to talk about the National Day of Prayer. Watch the whole segment on their site.

News Clips About the 2009 Day of Prayer

Please also see the JewsOnFirst.org 2007 report on the Task Force, here.

Obama tones down National Day of Prayer observance

By Kristi Keck, CNN, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

(CNN) -- For the past eight years, the White House recognized the National Day of Prayer with a service in the East Room, but this year, President Obama decided against holding a public ceremony.

"Prayer is something that the president does everyday," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, noting that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day, as many administrations in the past have done. [Full Article]

Baptist group not keen on government-sponsored National Day of Prayer

By Sam Hodges, The Dallas Morning News, May 6, 2009

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is all for prayer, but says the government should stay out of the way. Here's a press release, timed to tomorrow's National Day of Prayer:

Baptist group says National Day of Prayer is misguided and unnecessary Day of prayer more appropriately called for by pastors, rabbis and imams. [Full Article]

Wash. Times forwarded distortion of Obama's "Christian nation" remarks

Media Matters For America, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SUMMARY: The Washington Times uncritically quoted Wendy Wright distorting President Obama's "Christian nation" comments, taking them out of context to claim he rejected "the concept that America is a spiritual nation."

In a May 6 article reporting that "[a]ll Mr. Obama will do for the National Day of Prayer, which is Thursday, is sign a proclamation honoring the day," The Washington Times uncritically quoted Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, distorting comments President Obama made on April 6, taking them out of context to claim he rejected "the concept that America is a spiritual nation." The Times wrote: "Referencing a remark the president made at a recent press conference in Turkey that Americans 'do not consider ourselves a Christian nation,' [Wright] added: 'That was projecting his own beliefs, but not reflecting what the majority of Americans feel. It's almost like Obama is trying to remake America into his own image. This is ... a rejection of the concept that America is a spiritual nation and its foundation is Judeo-Christian.' " In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Obama was not repudiating the presence of Christianity or religion in the United States, as the context of his comments make clear; rather, he was making a broader point about the ecumenical nature of the country. [Full Article]

Obama to be prayer day no-show

President to sign proclamation, observe privately
By Julia Duin, The Washington Times, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

President Obama is distancing himself from the National Day of Prayer by nixing a formal early morning service and not attending a large Catholic prayer breakfast the next morning.

All Mr. Obama will do for the National Day of Prayer, which is Thursday, is sign a proclamation honoring the day, which originated in 1952 when Congress set aside the first Thursday in May for the observance. [Full Article]

America's Spiritual Heritage Proclaimed on the National Day of Prayer

Press Release, Liberty Counsel, May 6, 2009

Washington, DC - On Thursday, May 7, the National Day of Prayer, members of Congress and leaders of faith-based groups will hold a bipartisan press conference at 12:15 p.m. to affirm America's Christian heritage, as outlined in America's Spiritual Heritage Resolution (H.Res. 397), and to address President Obama's recent statement, made while visiting Turkey, that "we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation..."

Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel, will participate in the press conference, along with Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), and other members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Leaders of other faith-based organizations will also stand with the members to affirm America's rich religious heritage. [Full Article]

Obama's Decision to Observe National Day of Prayer Privately Draws Public Criticism

President Obama's decision to celebrate Thursday's observance privately has generated controversy among religious groups.
FOXNews.com, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's not a crisis of biblical proportions, but President Obama's plan to recognize the National Day of Prayer on Thursday with a paper proclamation, rather than a public event at the White House, is ruffling some religious feathers.

"We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration," Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Committee, said in a statement. "At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer." [Full Article]

Let Us Pray For Respect For All Beliefs

By Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant, May 5, 2009

When is prayer a problem?

A letter sent to President Barack Obama last month by the Interfaith Alliance and the advocacy group Jews on First asks that Obama offer something more inclusive than Thursday's National Day of Prayer.

The White House has said the president would issue a proclamation marking the day - as have presidents before George W. Bush - but probably won't host the primary organizers of the national event.

We are, after all, a multi-faith country with a growing body of unaffiliateds sprinkled throughout, and the truth belongs to everyone. [Full Article]

Americans United Commends Obama For Discontinuing Religious Right-Focused Prayer Event At White House

President Will Sign Proclamation, But Won't Hold White House Event
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended President Barack Obama for discontinuing an annual Religious Right-focused prayer service held during the previous eight years at the White House.

Obama has indicated that he will sign a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, but that no special White House prayer service will be held. [Full Article]

National Day of Prayer Task Force Knocks Obama White House

By Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News & World Report, May, 4, 2009

The National Day of Prayer Task Force, headquartered at the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, has issued a statement criticizing the Obama administration for the way it's marking the annual event this Thursday. Though the Obama administration has announced that it will issue a proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer, it will not hold a formal White House event, as George W. Bush had done for the past eight years.

The White House notes that presidents previous to Bush, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, were not in the habit of holding White House events for the National Day of Prayer. National Day of Prayer Task Force Vice Chairman Brian Toon recently acknowledged that there weren't regular White House events to mark the day until the Bush years, telling the Religion News Service: "There was no East Room event until George W." [Full Article]

Should president promote National Day of Prayer?

By Manya Brachear, Chicago Tribune, May 4, 2009

Should the National Day of Prayer be dubbed the National Day of Proclamation this year? After a standing invitation to the White House for the past eight years, prominent evangelical Christians who organize National Day of Prayer activities have not been invited that day. And it's unclear whether there will be any celebration at all.

"We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration," said Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who for the past eight years has attended a White House ceremony with her husband, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. "At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer." [Full Article]

White House boycott of National Day of Prayer?

AP Wire, Colorado Springs, May, 3, 2009

The event's evangelical character earned it a White House welcome during President George W. Bush's eight years in office. But Brian Toon, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, says to date, there's been no mention of a White House observance being held this year.

According to an article this past week in the Colorado Springs Gazette, advocacy groups for so-called inclusive dialogue on faith in America are "trying to break what they perceive as the organization's monopoly on the event." [Full Article]

National Day of Prayer focus is 'hope'

FAITHState observances planned at Capitol, churches, schools, other sites
From Staff Reporters, NewsOK, May 2, 2009

Christian prayer services as well as a service reflecting many traditions are set for Thursday in Oklahoma.

It is the 58th annual National Day of Prayer.

Theme for this year's Christian-oriented National Day of Prayer is "Prayer ... America's Hope." It is based on the verse from Psalm 33:22, "May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You." The day is coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. [Full Article]

Hodges: National Day of Prayer celebrates constitutional protections

By Corey J. Hodges, Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 2009

May 7 marks the 58th annual observance of the National Day of Prayer. On this day, people of faith from across the nation gather and publicly exercise their religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. Events will be held at churches, government buildings, national monuments, military bases and other venues across the country. The theme is "Prayer ... America's Hope." The observance, which has been an annual tradition for several years, continues to be controversial.

In 2008 the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed suit against members of the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force and President George W. Bush and his press secretary (the suit now names President Barack Obama and the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs). The FFRF is challenging the federal law that requires the president to issue a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a national day of prayer. The plaintiffs allege that the NDP Task Force is "working hand in glove" with the government in organizing the National Day of Prayer. In actuality, the NDP Task Force is a nonprofit organization not affiliated with the government. [Full Article]

The White House on National Day of Prayer: A Proclamation, but No Formal Ceremony

By Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News and World Report, May 1, 2009

The National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is run out of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been eagerly awaiting word from the White House about plans for next Thursday's National Day of Prayer. Specifically, the group wants to know if President Obama will issue a proclamation observing the National Day of Prayer next Thursday and whether he'll host a formal White House event to mark the day-the latter being the practice of the Bush White House.

The White House tells me that there will be a proclamation but no White House event-which is how administrations prior to George Bush's marked the event. Bush had been in the habit of inviting National Day of Prayer Task Force Chairman Shirley Dobson and her husband, James-founder of Focus on the Family-to the East Room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the event. [Full Article]

What's Wrong With the National Day of Prayer

American's United for Separation of Church and State Email

What is wrong with the National Day of Prayer?

Americans United does not believe the American people need to be called to prayer or worship by the government. Decisions like this are personal and should be left to the individual's conscience. This year's event is May 7, and AU has compiled a list of resources to help you respond to the question, "What's wrong with the National Day of Prayer?" [More Information]

Obama urged to make Day of Prayer more inclusive

By Adam Kredo, Staff Writer, Washington Jewish Week, April 30, 2009

The country's National Day of Prayer has been hijacked by Christian evangelicals who pervert the event for sectarian purposes, according to an interfaith task force comprised of Christians and Jews.

To prevent that from occurring during this year's May 7 celebration, the Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First, a First Amendment defense group, last week sent a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that he issue a presidential proclamation to help open the event to "believers of all religions, as well as those who profess no religion," according to the group's letter. [Full Article]

National Day of Prayer: inclusive or exclusive?

By Matt Pizzuti, Examiner.com, April 29, 2009

The National Day of Prayer, on May 7 this year, has been recognized by the United States Congress since 1952 as a day when Americans are asked to come together to pray. Because it does not specify a religion, it seems to have escaped the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment clause prohibiting the congress from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion," though many civil liberty advocates and constitutional scholars would beg to differ.

The day was founded at a time when Americans were trying to distinguish themselves from overtly atheist Soviet Communism during the red scare, coding "in God we trust" as the national motto (1956) and inserting "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance (1954). [Full Article]

National prayer day is almost here; Shirley Dobson's White House invite isn't

By Mark Barna, The Colorado Springs Gazette, April 29, 2009

The Colorado Springs-based National Day of Prayer Task Force had a friend in the White House. Every year, from 2001 to 2008, the Bush administration would invite members of the evangelical Christian organization to the White House to take part in a formal observance of the May 7 event.

But things are different in Washington now. This year, the task force - headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson - has not yet been invited to take part. [Full Article]

White House Mum on Plans for National Day of Prayer

White House officials deny claims that President Obama might not mark the National Day of Prayer.
By Wendell Goler, FOXNews.com, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

White House officials deny claims that President Obama might not mark the National Day of Prayer, though they're not ready to say what's planned or if he'll invite conservative evangelical critics.

Focus on the Family's James and Shirley Dobson said they've not yet been invited to a White House event. They said they haven't gotten a response to their request for a White House speaker at the annual breakfast on Capitol Hill either. [Full Article]

More Inclusive National Day of Prayer

From the blog of Jesse F. Tanner, The Unity Christian, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The 58th annual National Day of Prayer in the U.S. will be held May 7, 2009. The task force (headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family's James Dobson) that has fostered this event states that it is from an explicitly "Judeo-Christian" perspective. Though this task force does state that it invites "people of all faiths" to pray for the nation, it nonetheless centers its energies only on the Christian heritage especially.

There is a movement, spearheaded by Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First, to change this. This movement argues that the day of prayer event, inaugurated under Truman, has been taken over by exclusivist groups, leaving Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Bahai's and others out of the activities, and advocates that President Obama proclaim a much more inclusive national day of prayer. [Full Article]

National Day of Prayer Event Is Up in the Air

Obama Has Yet to Announce Whether He Will Continue Tradition of Hosting Conservative Evangelicals, Who Now Have Made Other Plans
By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, Saturday, April 25, 2009

Every year since 2001, then-President George W. Bush's calendar had been cleared on the first Thursday in May to mark the National Day of Prayer in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals.

Now the Obama White House is facing questions of inside-the-Beltway etiquette: Should President Obama maintain the open door to conservative critics like James and Shirley Dobson, and if so, should they accept? [Full Article]

Groups urge Obama to proclaim 'inclusive' day of prayer

By Bob Allen, The Baptist Standard, April 23, 2009

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First called on President Obama to proclaim an "inclusive" national day of prayer May 7 instead of endorsing a National Day of Prayer Task Force headed by Shirley Dobson.

Signed by Interfaith Alliance president Welton Gaddy and Jews on First co-directors Jane Hunter and Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, the letter dated April 21 said the National Day of Prayer, established by President Truman, several years ago was taken over by "exclusivists" in a group that "systematically excludes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and even mainline Christians from National Prayer Day events it conducts around the United States." [Full Article]

Groups call for more inclusive prayer day

By Eric Fingerhut, April 23, 2009

The Interfaith Alliance and the pro-First Amendment group Jews on First have written a letter to President Obama asking him to endorse an "Inclusive National Day of Prayer and Reflection" on May 7 that welcomes believers of all religions and those who profess no religion.

The groups said it was making the request because it said the National Day of Prayer, first proclaimed by President Harry Truman in 1952, has been "taken over" by "religious exclusivists" led by the Christian group Focus on the Family and excludes non-Christians from its events. [Full Article]

Will White House observe National Day of Prayer?

By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, USA Today, April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – Every year between 2001 and 2008, former President Bush's calendar was cleared on the first Thursday in May to mark the National Day of Prayer in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals.

Now the Obama White House is facing questions of inside-the-Beltway etiquette: Should Obama maintain the open door to conservative critics like James and Shirley Dobson, and if so, should they accept? [Full Article]