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Barry Lynn's Prayer Warriors
by Hans Zeiger
07 May 2004

Frustrated with the fact that the bulk of people involved in the National Day of Prayer actually believe in God, Lynn and his Left-wing atheist/secularist/ecumenist allies held their own counter-events this year.


This will make Barry Lynn even more incensed than he is now: pray for him on the National Day of Prayer. Lynn, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, declared war on the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 6, because it has been taken over by the "Religious Right."

Lynn's biggest complaint with the National Day of Prayer is not that he thinks it violates the constitution, but that "Religious Right forces are using the National Day of Prayer as a vehicle to promote a controversial religious and political agenda."

It just so happens that the "Religious Right" is the only significant religious group in America that is really dedicated and interested in praying to God. That isn't to say there aren't folks who occasionally pray to false gods or the multi-faith/inter-faith god or themselves in various corners of the Religious Left, but they don't tend to be the prayer warrior types.

Frustrated with the fact that the bulk of people involved in the National Day of Prayer actually believe in God, Lynn and his Left-wing atheist/secularist/ecumenist allies are holding their own counter-events this year. It's a fascinating new strategy: secularists are arguing that it is wrong for government to sponsor prayer to the God of the Religious Right, but public prayer is okay when it is organized by the Religious Left.
 
Unitarians, Mainstream Baptists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, members of the "Military Pagan Network" and other watered-down ecumenists held an "Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection" on the steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol Thursday to pray to the generic god. A group called Stop Theocracy in Oklahoma Policy (STOP) planned the multi-faith reflection service as a protest of the simultaneous "Religious Right" Day of Prayer event. "The south steps of the state Capitol have no relation to the kingdom of God," says Bruce Prescott, the organizer of the STOP protest.

Yet prayer to the God of the Bible is an important American tradition -- in government.  Every state legislature opens its sessions in prayer, as do both houses of Congress. Most presidents have declared days of prayer, thanksgiving, and even fasting. President Lincoln famously called for a day of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" in the midst of the Civil War. President Harry Truman proclaimed an annual prayer day in 1952 following a joint resolution by Congress. And in 1988, President Ronald Reagan established the first Thursday of May as the official National Day of Prayer.

None of that mattered after Barry Lynn's web surfers discovered a link to the National Day of Prayer on the Florida Juvenile Justice Department website and demanded the link removed. The link was promptly deleted last week. "Florida has no business promoting prayer events for the National Day of Prayer on any of its official Web sites, any more than it should be promoting an atheist event."

Maybe there's some inconsistency on the Left, but it does seem that atheists justify their own events being sponsored on public property. Atheists in Alabama are demanding state sponsorship for their protest of the National Day of Prayer, just yards from the Alabama judicial building where a monument of the Ten Commandments was ordered removed by a federal judge last summer. When the atheists sought access to indoor state facilities for their rally in case of rain, they went to Rep. Jay Love for sponsorship. Love refused, prompting Larry Darby of the Atheist Law Center to curse Love, accusing him of unfair treatment and calling him an "idiot" in newspapers.

Some elected officials are going along with the wave of secularism. The city council of Belvidere, New Jersey refused to pass a late April resolution in support of the National Day of Prayer after the town attorney and Mayor Charlie Liegel suggested that such a resolution would violate the separation of church and state. "I don't think government has the right to do something like this," said city council member Ben Ritter.

Even a Catholic priest was quoted in a Florida newspaper in opposition to the National Day of Prayer. Father Phil Egitto of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, refuses to participate in his local National Day of Prayer celebration because he considers it "extremely offensive" to Jews, Muslims, and other religious minorities. Egitto is disappointed that the National Day of Prayer looks more like a "fundamentalist rally" than a hippie love fest.

But consider this, Father Egitto: the significant difference between the kumbaya sessions and interfaith vigils and atheist protests of the Religious Left and the Bible studies and prayer circles of the Religious Right is that our God is real. Millions of God-fearing, Bible-believing Americans will be praying on Thursday; information is at www.nationaldayofprayer.org. Barry Lynn's godless America doesn't stand a chance against one nation under God.

Hans Zeiger is a Seattle Times columnist and conservative activist. He is president of the Scout Honor Coalition and a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan
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