Written by Don Byrd
As called upon by Congress, President Barack Obama has proclaimed today to be a National Day of Prayer. Here is an excerpt from his statement:
Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, and we have long upheld the belief that how we pray and whether we pray are matters reserved for an individual’s own conscience. On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people.
I love prayer. It has sustained me through good times and bad. But prayer should be a completely voluntary act of personal conscience, not the result of the urgings of government one way or the other. The BJC has said it well on previous National Prayer Days: “The government shouldn’t be in the business of telling the American people what, where or when to pray or even if they should pray,
Religion should flourish (or not) on its own. As Holly Hollman explained, that is how religious freedom works for everyone:
In the end, religion is best promoted when left to itself — espoused not by government officials, but by communities of faith. That is the genius of the American tradition of separation: it is designed to promote, not constrain, the free exercise of religious faith in all its varieties. If Congress and the president truly want to promote prayer, they should follow the wise counsel of Jefferson and Madison and keep the government out of it.