Inclusive Prayer Day
People of Many Faith Traditions Calling For an Inclusive National Day of Prayer
Facts and Talking Points
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is controlled by Focus on the Family and allied right-wing Christian evangelical groups.
The chair of the Task Force, Shirley Dobson, is the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. According to the Task Force website, the group "is housed in the Focus on the Family headquarters for convenience, so long as Mrs. Dobson remains the Chairman." The site says that the business affairs of the two groups are separate, "and Focus on the Family is compensated for services rendered."
The 2010 Task Force honorary chairman is Rev. Franklin Graham, who has disparaged Islam. Graham heads Samaritan's Purse, a world wide evangelizing relief organization. Other Task Force partners include: The Alliance Defense Fund and Military Ministry of Campus Crusade.
In its school section the Task Force links itself to "historian" David Barton, a leading proponent of the false notion that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. In past years, the Task Force has counseled teachers and students on "legal" maneuvers to push Christian prayer in public schools, but now it links to the "historian's" site.
The National Day of Prayer Task force excludes participation by Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even moderate evangelical Christians. Although it calls itself "Judeo-Christian," it is explicitly (and narrowly) Christian.
A Task Force application document that volunteer coordinators must sign states: "I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend."
Another page of the "official" website of the Task Force defines the term "Judeo Christian," but makes clear that the state- and local- level events are fundamentalist Protestant and other faiths are unwelcome. In its Official Policy Statement on Participation of "Non-Judeo-Christian" groups in the National Day of Prayer, the group states:
The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.
Local Task Force coordinators must sign a Christian statement of faith. According to the Task Force coordinators' website, coordinators must include in their application a "statement of faith, confirming your commitment to Christ." The text of the statement is as follows:
I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name. I agree that these statements are true in my life.
The Christian orientation of the organization is even more explicit on its fundraising page, where it requests support to "bring the name of Christ out from behind church walls and into the public frontlines of all 50 states" and to "[k]eep our Christian faith and religious freedom in the public square."
On another page, the organization in describing the day, states: "Christian leaders address the current year's theme and other areas of interest (i.e. education, youth, families, etc.)." (Link is to a cached website of a Task Force affiliate.)
In a 2005 report on the Task Force, the Texas Freedom Network quoted a similarly exclusionary statement from the Task Force's website: "Our expression of that involvement [in the National Day of Prayer] is specifically limited to the Judeo-Christian heritage and those who share that conviction as expressed in the Lausanne Covenant." The Lausanne Covenant is a 1974 declaration of evangelical Christianity that includes a belief in Biblical inerrancy and Christian exclusivity.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force deliberately fosters the impression that it and its events are official government operations.
More facts about the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
"In 2007, approximately 40,000 events were held nationwide. Local volunteers and coordinators held a variety of activities ranging from prayer breakfasts, Bible reading marathons, concerts of prayer, rallies, church prayer vigils, student flagpole gatherings and observances held in sports stadiums." Click here.
The Task Force offers teachers "some tips to legally integrate prayer into your daily lessons." (The original link is no longer on the Task Force website and we have substituted a link to the San Diego affiliate.)
The call for an Inclusive National Day of Prayer is a project of JewsOnFirst.org.
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