There’s a bull’s-eye being hung on Christian prayer right now, and one of the attorneys who wages war for the right of Americans to express their faith publicly says on this 2010 National Day of Prayer it’s because of a national atmosphere that encourages atheists to make their demands.
“The radical secular, militant atheists are feeling empowered right now,” Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund told WND.
The ADF is one of the premiere organizations that fights for civil and religious rights in the United States and is made up of thousands of lawyers who take on cases as they develop.
Johnson cited two recent developments that reveal a growing antagonism toward Christian prayer – even though the Continental Congress recognized the value of prayer even before the U.S. became a nation.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, was disinvited to serve as the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force event at the Pentagon because some Muslims were offended by past remarks. And last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the National Day of Prayer as recognized for hundreds of years and especially as formalized in recent decades is unconstitutional. The decision is being appealed.
“Leftists are feeling empowered,” Johnson said, describing the “barrage” of requests for help in the defense of traditional Christian prayer events, such as invocations at meetings.
“Beginning about three or four years ago, we noted a trend. There was an increase in the overt attacks on public invocations, traditional public prayer,” Johnson said.
The attacks came from groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, he said.
“It was almost as if they got together in a room somewhere and decided on a strategy to go after prayer,” he said.
One case came up that was decided against Christian prayer, a small town procedure that required prayer in Jesus name at public meetings.
And while Johnson said the decision was correct, leftist groups took it and ran with it, citing it in warnings to other towns, counties and other bodies that all of their prayer procedures also were unconstitutional, whether they were or not.
He said lawyers immediately noticed the trend and started mapping it, watching it move from the Carolinas up and down the eastern seaboard, then westward across the country.
Their response was to create a model invocation policy that met constitutional muster and distribute it to 22,000 cities and other governments across the country.
“We said if you haven’t been threatened yet, you will be,” Johnson said.
He said the model policy has helped, but even so, the “militant secularists” continue filing lawsuits at will.
“They are pulling out all the stops,” he said.
Graham said there are alarming trends in the U.S., a nation that recognized the importance of prayer even as leaders assembled as the Continental Congress.
In a report in USA Today, he said the Pentagon’s disinvitation amounts to a “slap in the face of all Christians.”
Meanwhile, he said on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Brody File,” under President Obama, Islam is getting a “pass.”
Officials report that in 2009, there were some 40,000 individual events held to mark the Christian prayer of the nation.
Graham said his belief is in Christianity, and for that he was targeted.
“Muslims do not worship the same ‘God the Father’ I worship,” he said. “No elephant with 100 arms (from Hinduism) can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation.”
The White House also recently dropped the phrase “In the year of our Lord” from a proclamation about Jewish Heritage Month, even though the year indicated was 2010, not the 5,000-plus it would be under the Jewish calendar.
During the webcast of a Family Research Council prayer event today, Graham said preaching is allowed now in America, but there may come a time when it is permitted only inside certain walls, because of the growing attacks on Christianity and expressions of faith..
“Maybe in my lifetime,” he warned.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force said the observance was established in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman. It is founded on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion.
The Task Force concentrates on prayer for the well-being of America and for leaders at all levels. The 2010 theme is “Prayer, For Such a Time as This,” based on the verse from Nahum 1:7, which states: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”
But prayer – on a governmental level – has been going on since 1775, when the Continental Congress designated a time of prayer for forming a new nation. It was in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln called for such a day.
It is not designated as a “Christian” event and encourages Americans regardless of religion to celebrate their faith. The Task Force, however, focuses on the Judeo-Christian beliefs held by many of the Founders.
The most visible events are held in Congress and in other Washington locales. But local volunteers and coordinators set up events across the nation including prayer breakfasts, Bible reading marathons, prayer concernts, rallies and prayer vigils.
Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and the national chairmwoman for the Task Force, said the nation’s “heritage of prayer has come under unrelenting assault.”
“On April 15, 2010, federal judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling striking down the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional. And now, a small group of naysayers in Albuquerque has demanded that the Pentagon cancel its planned National Day of Prayer. … It is time to say, ‘enough is enough.'”
According to historical documentation assembled by Wallbuilders, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in 1847, “The right of a society or government to [participate] in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state and indispensable to the administrations of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion – the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues – these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them.”
Former U.S. House Speaker Robert Winthrop wrote in 1852, “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”
And among the multitude of other references to faith, John Adams, second president, said in 1854, “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”