National Day of Prayer – bye bye!

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My crazy uncle (who I really like) just send me one of his amazing emails. Here’s the email with some comments I couldn’t help but add included in blue:

HOORAY, HOORAY, HOORAY for Andy Rooney (hilarious that they think Andy Rooney would write this!). I myself have been grumbling and wondering how a handful of people have been able to take our right to pray in public places away from us (I’m assuming they mean the recent court case that determined a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional). So, agreeing with Andy, I GLADLY will forward this email AGAIN, AGAIN AND AGAIN. Folks, this is the Month that we RE-TAKE AMERICA (from the majority group that has most of the power, those fracking Christians!). Keep this going around the globe . Read it and forward every time you receive it. We can’t give up on this issue.

Andy Rooney and Prayer
Andy Rooney says: I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I’m not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December. I don’t agree with Darwin , but I didn’t go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught his Theory of Evolution (this is the sentence that immediately cued me into the fact that this couldn’t be Andy Rooney; he may be odd, but he’s not ignorant). Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game. So what’s the big deal? It’s not like somebody is up there reading the entire Book of Acts. They’re just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game. But it’s a Christian prayer, some will argue. Yes, and this is the United States of America , a country founded on Christian principles. According to our very own phone book, Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1.(ahh, the old argumentum ad populum) So what would you expect — somebody chanting Hare Krishna? If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a Jewish prayer… (no he wouldn’t ’cause they wouldn’t) If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad , I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer. (again, no he wouldn’t ’cause they wouldn’t; and I’m guessing he’d be offended if one was said) If I went to a ping pong match in China , I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha. (now he’s removing any trace from anyone’s mind how uneducated he is; definitely no prayers to Buddha in China before ping pong matches) And I wouldn’t be offended. It wouldn’t bother me one bit. (I’d love to see this actually play out and see if he was offended) When in Rome… (um, is he really saying do as the “Muslims/Buddhists/Jews” would do? I don’t think he means what he thinks he means…)

But what about the atheists? Is another argument. What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized.(um, well, yes, people are) We’re not going to pass the collection plate. Just humor us for 30 seconds.(only if you’ll humor me for 30 seconds when you’re done; fair is fair) If that’s asking too much, bring a Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer! (ah, yes, the old – “suck it atheists” approach when all else fails) Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do.(yep, just like one or two told whites that segregated schools were a bad thing and beating wives was a bad thing; those a**holes, thinking they know what is best for everyone else! Bring back the 1940s!) I don’t think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world’s foundations.(nope, just inappropriate) Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights.(um, wow! Can you say “not a good Christian”?!? Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”)

Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to pray before we go to sleep. Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying.(um, not exactly; the federal courts are simply saying that government can’t tell citizens when and how to pray; you can pray without ceasing, just don’t force me to listen to you) God, help us. And if that last sentence offends you, well, just sue me.(no need; we won the lawsuit already) The silent majority has been silent too long.(oh, you mean the one with thousands of radio stations and TV stations and billboards and churches and politicians representing it? Right. I never hear that “silent majority.”) It’s time we tell that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard that the vast majority doesn’t care what they want.(You hear that, blacks, women, homosexuals, etc? The majority doesn’t want to give you rights.) It is time that the majority Rules! (um, that’s basically defined in the Constitution; been that way for a long time) It’s time we tell them, You don’t have to pray; you don’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance; you don’t have to believe in God or attend services that honor Him. That is your right, and we will honor your right; but by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away.(you mean your right to infringe upon my rights; didn’t know that was a right…) We are fighting back, and we WILL WIN! (um, nope; you lost)

God bless us one and all… (no thanks) Especially those who denounce Him, God bless America, despite all her faults. She is still the greatest nation of all. God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray and worship God. Let’s make 2010 the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions. And our military forces come home from all the wars. Keep looking up.

I, of course, as the crazy nephew, couldn’t help but respond to everyone on the email list with the following:

Hi,

Sorry for the intrusion in your inbox, but I once again feel obligated to correct misinformation. First, the email below was not written by Andy Rooney (if you know Andy Rooney, you know he’d never write that email):
http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/prayer.asp

It was written by Nick Gholson, a sports writer in Wichita Falls, Texas.

It is also remarkably ignorant of the recent court case in which a Federal Court decided that a National Day of Prayer IS unconstitutional:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Prayer

Basically what happened was Billy Graham, using the political influence of Evangelical Christians, convinced Congress to enact a National Day of Prayer in 1952. The date for the National Day of Prayer was formalized in the 1980s at the request of Campus Crusade for Christ. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, led by Shirley Dobson, was housed in the Focus on the Family building in Colorado, which is where James Dobson, an Evangelical Christian, has his headquarters. In other words, the National Day of Prayer was an Evangelical Christian sponsored event!

Everyone who cares about religious autonomy should be cheering this court decision. Why? Because it makes it so government cannot tell you when and how you should pray. Religious minorities, like Mormons, should be particularly excited by this case, as this reduces the odds of Evangelical Christians pushing their particular religious worldview on the rest of America, which I’m sure Mormons and other religious minorities would not like.

Just thought you’d like some accurate information today.

Yeah, I know, I’m THAT jerk who feels arrogant enough to think he should correct people via email. Anywho, here’s a response I received:

No, I don’t know that Andy Rooney would never write an article like the one below. I don’t know him, do you? But it doesn’t matter if Andy wrote it orNick Gholson wrote it. It is a well writtenarticle that everyone should consider. And what was threatening or unconstitutional about a national day of prayer?? One could pray to their God or not, it was not forced and they certainaly were not telling us “when or how youshould pray”. Who cares who sponsoredit. It was a daywherebelievers in God could collectively thank the Supreme Being for our blessings and ask Hisblessings for our country and fellow man. So a federal courtruled it unconstitutional.So what!! That doesn’t make it right. It just makes it one more bad, unconstitutional, decision the courts havemade over the years – like the one the U. S. Supreme Courtymade in 1857 wherethey ruledblacks, slaves as well as free, were not and could never become citizens of the United States. Or like the decision the Supreme Court made in 1890when they declared that Idaho’s 1885 law denying Mormons the right to vote or hold public office was consitutional. Who knows -if this case goes to the Supreme Court perhaps they will overule the lower court.

No, I’m not cheering the decision thecourt made denying the right for a national day of prayer.It’s only just one more assault on religion and prayer made byunbelieversand atheists. I believe the goal of those who bring these court cases is not to preserve religious rights but to ultimatelyhave allprayer and religion in this country banned. They are trying to take away our right to believe inand worship God.I doubt they will everbe happy or stop the assault on religionuntil they have everyone convincedthat God is a myth and all religious worship and prayers are forbidden.

My less than kind response:

First, yes, I do know Andy Rooney. He’s a famous television personality and social commentator on 60 Minutes. I’m amazed you don’t know him, but I guess not everyone watches 60 Minutes.

Second, it’s not well-written. It’s actually quite poorly written. But issues of grammar aside, the issue behind a national day of prayer is an important one. Is it threatening? Yes. We were told WHEN to pray (first Thursday in May) and we were told HOW to pray (the National Day of Prayer Task Force wrote the prayer for everyone). Since it sounds like you’re a Christian, my guess is that you probably don’t mind this because the prayers were Christian in nature. But, and this is the point, what if they were not? What if a Muslim or a Hindu were elected to office? And what if their prayer was, “Allah, smite the Christians that they all die.” Would you still feel the same way about a national day of prayer? Or what if it was a Wiccan who was elected to office? Would you be okay if, instead of prayer, they performed a magical ritual involving pentagrams, black cats, and human blood?

You see, here’s where you’re missing the point: You’re okay with a “National Day of Prayer” because you are in the majority and you don’t think that all of the minorities out there should find your beliefs offensive. But THEY DO! Especially when they are forced on them. Try flipping perspectives for a minute to see the world from the perspective of a religious minority. If you can’t, too bad. You’re welcome to continue in your dogmatic views. But perhaps seeing the world from the perspective of a minority will help you realize that the intent is not to remove people’s right to pray but rather to remove government from religion. Do you really want big government telling you how to worship? I’m guessing your against government and doubly against government controlling religion. So why aren’t you for this court decision?

You then assume that “unbelievers and atheists” are assaulting religion. Really? Maybe they’re simply defending their rights (FYI, I’m an atheist). Have you ever been forced to listen to an atheist give a “prayer” at a funeral or graduation? Me either, because they would never force their views on anyone else. Atheists don’t want to listen to your prayers any more than you want to listen to them. So, they are asserting their rights to say, “Don’t make me listen to your prayers.” And they’re not saying, “Oh, you now have to listen to mine.” They’re/We’re simply saying, “Be as religious as you want – on YOUR time and YOUR dime, but not on mine.” Isn’t that fair? Or do you think it’s not fair because you want the government to support your beliefs over theirs?

Oh, and just for fun, if you are a Christian, maybe you should reconsider your position in light of your own scripture:
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

Your god says not to pray in public anyway. This court decision actually just makes it easier for you to follow your own religion.

And, finally, her response:

Yes, I have heard of Andy Rooney and have listened to some of his commentaries, but I don’t know him and can’t speak for what he would or wouldn’t say and neither can you.

Please delete my email address from your records and I will certainly remove traces of your address from my computer. I have no wish to hear from you and I also thinkit was veryrude of you to steal email addresses from forwarded mail and then email your views topeople you don’t know and who definitely don’t share your views!

10 thoughts on “National Day of Prayer – bye bye!

  1. If you don’t know the people, how do you know they don’t share you views? Your crazy uncle knows you (I assume), and yet he sent the initial email.

    It’s amazing how sending factual information is considered an anti-religious act.

  2. The person responding is just some completely random stranger on the email list. I don’t know her at all.

  3. Now you’re deleted from her email list — Ha! That’ll show you! Great blog, I look forward to reading more, and will definitely add you to my (small) blogroll.

  4. Oh, and just for fun, if you are a Christian, maybe you should reconsider your position in light of your own scripture:
    Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

    Your god says not to pray in public anyway. This court decision actually just makes it easier for you to follow your own religion.

    this is a terrific response. I plan to use it if I ever find myself in a similar conversation.

  5. =/ It just reads to me like another example of people speaking past one another. When people are at church, they don’t like to think of their church as the infrastructure in which their faith is “contained” or a private place. They’d rather their voices be loud, public, flowing out of the Church for all the world to hear. Otherwise, their feeling is that God is being removed from public life…His world (their world) is shrinking. Obviously, within this worldview the question of migrant faiths or non-faiths becomes secondary. The Mormon worldview I believe is slightly nuanced in that the existence of other faiths is more respected (although, there are also plenty of place-bound Mormons). But one question I’d have (for profxm) is what should be the limitations of public religion? Should Mormon proselytizing be made illegal so that atheists don’t have to be bothered by pesky missionaries knocking on their door? Was the Mormon involvement in Prop 8 “unconstitutional?” I’m not saying I agree with the person in the email, but it is unclear in your response to her where you’re drawing the line. For her, you just fit into that ugly mass that is trying to eradicate public religion.

  6. Alan — It’s possible that they were speaking past each other, but the principle is extremely simple. You have the right to pray in public all you want. Just don’t ask the government to pray for you or with you.

  7. Shirley Dobson made sure Mormons were specifically excluded from participation in the National Day of Prayer.

    “That sort of exclusion is the thing I hate the very worst,” Chaplain Linda P. Walton said. “Bigotry. That’s what I call it.”

    I suspect not a few LDS leaders chuckled quietly as they thought to themselves … Suck on this, Shirley.

  8. chanson@7: Unfortunately, this simple principle is lost on many people. Many equate an end of the National Day of Prayer with the shrinking of public religion generally (because this is how it is framed by the right). The judge who ruled the NDOP unconstitutional provides an alternative way of looking at it: “If the government were interested in acknowledging the role of religion in America, it could have designated a ‘National Day of Religious Freedom’ rather than promote a particular religious practice.” The extremes probably would still find this unacceptable: on one side there are those who insist America is and forever be Judeo-Christian and on the other side there are those who think a day dedicated to “religious freedom” is against their religious freedom. It’d definitely be a step in the right direction to change the name.

  9. I’d be okay with a “National Day of Religious Freedom” where people are invited to do whatever they want when it comes to religion. But that would mean the virulently anti-religious can urinate on Bibles while the virulently pro-religious tell them they’re going to hell. Perfectly fine with me.

    Basically, chanson summarized it fine: I have no problem with people praying in public. I do have a problem with our government telling us when or how to pray or otherwise be religious or not religious. Government entanglement with religion just should happen, at any level. No tax breaks. No special days. No collaboration. Period.

    Now, if a religion has a division that is exclusively charitable in nature and does no proselytizing, I think they should be able to work with government. But that is seldom the case. Usually “charity” is self-serving and not purely altruistic – it’s a hook to get into people’s lives so you can eventually convert them. Yeah, that bugs.

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