For weeks now, there’s been speculation as to how the Obama administration will observe the National Day of Prayer. During the eight years of the Bush administration, President George W. Bush commemorated the day with a proclamation and an East Room ceremony that included conservative Christians, such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family and his wife, Shirley Dobson, Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Critics of the National Day of Prayer felt that the White House ceremony was not inclusive enough and were anticipating that the Obama administration would design a more interfaith observance.
Now that the day is almost upon us and will be observed tomorrow, Thursday, May 7, 2009, we have the answer. The White House will issue an official proclamation but skip the East Room event. Basically, President Obama is hitting the reset button and going back to the way previous presidents handled the National Day of Prayer. Under previous administrations, such as President George Bush Sr. and President Ronald Reagan, proclamations were issued but there was no White House event.
While they probably saw this coming, the National Day of Prayer Task Force has expressed dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s stance – after all, for eight years they’ve been welcome in the White House with the President’s full support. Yet President Obama has demonstrated greater inclusivity from day one – remember his Inauguration speech? The President’s statement, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers” touched a nerve with many conservative Christian groups.
On the other hand, interfaith, atheist and non-Judeo Christian religious groups that have felt excluded from past National Day of Prayer events applaud President Obama’s step back, as they believe that Evangelical Christian groups have dominated the National Day of Prayer and organized most of the local events going on around the country. They would like to see the day be more welcoming to all Americans.
The National Day of Prayer tends to be a touchy issue anyway, but given that President Obama’s personal religious beliefs differ greatly from those of former President George W. Bush’s, his observance of Christianity continues to be in the news, whether it’s the Obamas’ search for a new Church or how he handles the National Day of Prayer and the Evangelical community.
What do you think?