Sunday, May 02, 2010

National day of ~(prayer)

A wisconsin Federal judge, one Miss Crabb, has declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional:

Crabb...wrote in her decision that ‘”some forms of ‘ceremonial deism,’ such as legislative prayer, do not violate the establishment clause.” But she said the National Day of Prayer goes too far.
“It 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,” she said. “In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”…
The suit was originally filed against then-President George W. Bush and members of his administration, but President Obama is now listed as the defendant because the president enforces the statute in question by issuing a proclamation each year declaring National Day of Prayer.

Judge Crabb probably made the right decision, or at least the Constitutional decision, and that needn't imply that all prayer is misguided, or superstition. As a type of mental health or contemplation, prayer may provide comfort or serenity. A monk deep in prayer, intoning the latin of the Vulgate-- engages in a meaningful act, whether one shares his faith or not. People praying in the pews on sunday morning--say, a mother praying for her soldier son fighting in the middle east-- also attach a great deal of weight to their prayers, and the sort of glib, Dawkins-ish scoffer--why, any educated person knows prayer doesn't work, yada yada yada-- misses the point, greatly.

The National Day of prayer, however, extends the private act of prayer to the public arena. Judge Crabb probably offends many believers (including jew and muslim, along with christian) with her assertion that public prayer "serves no secular function", but her point seems quite in line with the First Amendment. Of course, the national day of prayer folks claim they are "ecumenical"--the event usually starts with the evangelicals prayers, a catholic priest perhaps, one or two rabbis, an imam, the moongoddess sort, evangelicals again, and maybe a unitarian freak, or one person representing an eastern religion. Yet these religions really have little in common. In ways, they are diametrically opposed (i.e. monotheistic vs polytheistic, for one), and since the evangelicals generally outnumber the other faiths by like 7 to 1, it's in effect a ...baptist prayer meeting, a prayer to Jeezuss of the IHOP, and to his pops, Gott, to keep property values increasing.

James Madison opposed public displays of christianity (or any religion) such as prayers from podiums, and at the end of his life, Madison attempted to keep chaplains out of the US Military (he lost). Crabb's decision seems rather Madisonian--even those religious people who don't belong to the big mainstream churches (ie baptist/presbyterian, or catholic) should approve of her separation of church and state.

No comments:

Custom Search

Blog Archive