FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2021
Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team
[email protected]; Phone: 202-417-0171
Interfaith Group Calls National Day of Prayer “Problematic” for Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON — Though President Biden’s proclamation on the National Day of Prayer included moments of inclusivity for people of all faiths, proponents of true religious freedom should be wary of the congressionally-mandated proclamation’s very existence, say interfaith advocates.
Interfaith Alliance, the only national interfaith organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in America, criticized the annual proclamation as a violation of church-state separation.
“This National Day of Prayer, President Biden celebrated faith and prayer as a source of strength, hope and guidance for many Americans,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance. “We appreciate the president’s nod to people of all faiths and beliefs, but true religious freedom does not just protect the right to pray, it protects our right not to pray. It prevents the government from favoring religion over non-religion or dictating if, when or how we worship.”
Established by President Harry Truman in 1952, the National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance, mandated by Congress, that intends to bring together Americans of every religion to express their faith in whatever way is appropriate for them.
But for many years now, Religious Right activists have claimed this observance to propagate the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Private religious groups like the self-proclaimed National Day of Prayer Task Force organize events which are restricted to only fundamentalist evangelical Christians. These events often involve elected officials and have taken place at government buildings such as courthouses and state capitols.
In years past, Interfaith Alliance has raised similar concerns on the National Day of Prayer, and its implications for religious freedom, and Americans who do not include prayer in their belief system. This year, Interfaith Alliance took to state capitols, calling for governors to proclaim an Inclusive National Day of Prayer and Meditation that recognizes the diversity of beliefs in our country and invites representatives of diverse faith traditions to participate equally and fully – especially in events that take place on government property.
“Americans of every religion are free to express their faith in whatever way is appropriate for them. But the National Day of Prayer inserts the government into religious practice in a way contrary to our constitutional values,” continued Rabbi Moline. “We cannot observe the National Day of Prayer without acknowledging its problematic nature. For both faith and freedom to flourish in this country, the government must not weigh in on matters of faith but be guided by the constitutional principles which restrict it from doing so.”
If you are interested in speaking further with Interfaith Alliance on this issue, please contact Manisha Sunil at (202) 417-0171 or [email protected].
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.