Thursday, May 6, was The National Day of Prayer as proclaimed by President Barack Obama. But this year, the service that began fifty-eight years ago, was surrounded by controversy.
In April, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the US law directing the president to proclaim a day of prayer violates the First Amendment, which prohibits “government establishment of religion.”
Obama received much criticism from the political right due to his lack of participation in the annual ritual. His predecessor, George W. Bush, used to hold an annual observance in the East Room of the White House.
Last year, when Obama announced that he would limit his involvement in proclaiming a religion in the White House, a rumor was started: Obama had “cancelled” the National Day of Prayer because he preferred to pray with Muslims.
Oddly, this rumor surfaced around the same time Obama received criticism for his relationship with his controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, immediately complained of Obama’s “lack of support and faith.” “What’s next, cancelling the Christmas holidays?” he fired off.
In a press conference given on Tuesday, Obama set the record straight about his own beliefs after stating that he would indeed observe The National Day of Prayer.
“Throughout our history, whether in times of great joy and thanksgiving, or in times of great challenge and uncertainty, Americans have turned to prayer,” said Obama. “In prayer, we have expressed gratitude and humility, sought guidance and forgiveness, and received inspiration and assistance, both in good times and in bad,” he said.
In his support of the observance, many fear that Obama may lose votes in run for reelection.
Opponents of the day of prayer often object to a government prayer proclamation that assumes a universal belief in God, and are angry that Obama chose to support such a day of proclamation.