November 15, 2018

Reason Is Better than Prayer (for Government)

Click here to read Roy Speckhardt's Huffington Post piece on the National Day of ReasonThis piece written by AHA executive director Roy Speckhardt originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Click here to read the whole post on

Every year on the first Thursday of May a peculiar thing happens: the president and government officials across the nation ask us to pray. Not only do they ask us to pray, they inform us of the value of prayer and how, according to President Obama’s 2012 National Day of Prayer Proclamation, prayer has “always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength.” Of course, it’s not exactly “countless” since we can count millions of Americans that don’t believe in the efficacy of prayer.

This is a particular problem for nonreligious Americans who are civically minded. Just like our religious family and friends, we want to participate in community gatherings and political events and be an accepted contributor to the diverse American tapestry. So we understandably take issue with efforts to say that the American way is the way that excludes us, especially when those efforts are driven by officials we helped elect.

And it’s not just the excluded nonreligious 20 percent of the country who are bothered by the president asking for nationwide prayer. There are also many people of faith that object to government’s intrusion in their private religious practices. After all, we didn’t elect our representatives to give us advice on how and when to pray, and some particularly devout people believe that reserving prayer for a single day demeans its importance.

As if it weren’t bad enough just as a concept, the National Day of Prayer’s execution makes it even worse. This national religious “observance” has been around since the 1950s during the McCarthy Era when we took pains to distinguish ourselves from atheist communist Russia, when Congress and President Truman mandated that it occur every year. It was only relatively recently that it became such a focal point, and credit for that goes to George W. Bush, Shirley Dobson and the National Day of Prayer Taskforce who steered the observance in a decidedly conservative direction that encourages mixing church and state. During Bush’s reign, there were elaborate prayer breakfasts and ceremonies where religious values were praised.

Click here to read the rest of this post on