Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement about the National Day of Prayer, which will be observed on May 5, 2011:

This year, the National Day of Prayer comes at a time when our country is facing great challenges both at home and abroad. Natural disasters, economic problems, and recent international events weigh heavily on the minds of every American. For those individuals who find peace and comfort through prayer or reflection, current events provide abundant source material for those exercises, but I do not believe any of us need the government to tell us to pray or to meditate.  That is not the business of any office or leader at any level of our government.

Government proclamations calling for religious exercises are somewhat insulting and offensive for religious persons.  Prayer and meditation are products of the hearts and minds of religious people, not forms of obedience to leaders in government.  We no more need our elected leaders telling us when or how to pray than we do religious leaders telling us when or for whom to vote.

But the day exists, at least until the courts say otherwise. My hope for this year’s National Day of Prayer is that it will afford all of us a moment to appreciate the great diversity of faith and belief systems that exist in this country and to express gratitude for the unique nature of our democracy that allows that to be the case. Of course, though, that can and should happen most every day among religious people and people who embrace no religion—such is the blessing of freedom.

Interfaith Alliance has raised concerns for many years over the National Day of Prayer. The organization’s position is that faith and prayer play an important role in the life of our nation, but the government should never be in a position to dictate when or how it happens. 

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.