The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Christians Defy Judge's Ruling,
Mark National Day of Prayer
or years, the annual National Day of Prayer observances on Capitol Hill had become almost routine affairs as mostly conservative Christian groups bowed with legislators to pray for the soul of America.
But this year, after a federal judge ruled the law creating the day is unconstitutional, the May 6 events took on an air of defiance as organizers accused nonbelievers of threatening their religious freedom.
"I think it is waking people up across this land," said evangelist Franklin Graham, the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who was disinvited from Pentagon observances because of his remarks on Islam. "I think people realize, many Christians, how we're losing our religious freedoms a little bit every day and if we don't stand up and exercise the freedoms that God has given us in this country, we will lose them."
Graham began the day praying on the sidewalk outside the Pentagon, after military officials withdrew his invitation to speak because his comments about Islam--he's called it an "evil and wicked religion" -- were "problematic."
Across the country Thursday, organizers said more than 40,000 events were scheduled to be held at parks, churches and courthouse steps--more than any other year and an increase of more than 15 percent from last year.
Shirley Dobson, leader of the task force and the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, noted that the nationwide observances are voluntary. "Citizens can choose to pray or not to pray," she said. "No one is required to participate, despite what the opponents of public prayer say."
She was thankful that the Obama administration is appealing the April 15 decision by Wisconsin federal judge Barbara Crabb--who ruled observances could continue as her decision is appealed. Dobson said the Pentagon's rescinded invitation was "dishonoring" to Graham and his son, Edward, an Army captain now serving in Afghanistan. "This situation that's come up the last several weeks serves as yet another indication of the relentless assaults against our religious liberty," she said.
After winning the first legal round, the Freedom from Religion Foundation urged mayors and governors not to endorse the National Day of Prayer this year. It also placed billboards in Colorado Springs, Colorado, home to the prayer day task force's headquarters, declaring "God & Government a Dangerous Mix: Keep State & Church Separate."
In his keynote address at the Cannon House Office Building, Graham acknowledged that people "of other faiths" might hear his message but he could only speak as a "minister of the gospel."
"I don't want to be offensive to anyone," he said, "but I only know how to pray and I only know how to preach the way that the Bible instructs me."