Day of Prayer; the wrong kind joining civility statement?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled Thursday that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

National Day of Prayer "goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. . . .

"I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate. A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination. Rather, it is part of the effort 'to carry out the Founders' plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society.' "

The case was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that challenged the constitutionality of a 1988 law giving the president authority to designate the first Thursday in May as National Day of Prayer.

-- David Waters

Uncivil for church leader to remove his name from civility statement?

A leader of one of America's largest Christian denominations wants his name removed from a statement calling for a more civil national discourse. Why? Too many of the wrong sort of Christians have signed the statement.

"The problem is the tent that has grown so large on the signatures of this that they are including people who are supportive of gay marriage and abortion rights," explained a spokesman for George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, the nation's second largest Pentecostal group.

The "Covenant for Civility" has been signed by more than 100 Christian -- assuming we can use that term to describe them all -- leaders, from NAE President Leith Anderson and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson to United Church of Christ President and General Minister Geoffrey A. Black and Sojourners founder Jim Wallis.

Is it an act of incivility to have your name removed from a "Covenant for Civility"?

-- David Waters

Staff writers Michelle Boorstein and William Wan, "On Faith" editor David Waters and "Divine Impulses" producer Elizabeth Tenety blog regularly on religion, politics and policy at

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