I felt compelled to write about something that’s been in the news for quite awhile now: the National Day of Prayer. Some say it’s just what we need. Other people say it’s unconstitutional, that it violates the establishment clause.
First, let’s examine this clause. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” From what I have seen, this National Day of prayer does not violate the establishment clause. This national holiday doe snot establish any specific way of praying, nor does it force you to pray at all. It doesn’t say anything to the effect of “people not praying at all will be imprisoned” nor does it say “people not praying in accordance with the Christian faith will be imprisoned.”
This is simply a holiday that honors our first and greatest right enumerated in the Bill of Rights: the freedom of religious speech and expression. This right grants people of all faiths the right to speak in the public square without fear or ridicule (or at least it’s supposed to anyway). This is a simple holiday meant to honor the fact that it was members of various religious denominations, those that the world today seeks to demonize, that were instrumental in forming the documents by which our nation was to be led in liberty for all time: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America).
This does not constitute a violation of the establishment clause. In order for it to be a violation of the establishment clause it would have to force people to pray and/or do so in a particular way by way of threatening punishment of some nasty and undesirable kind if one does not comply. The National Day of Prayer does not do this. It does not seek to establish a state church. It just seeks to give special notice to our first and greatest civil liberty: freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion as some might have you believe. A very basic principle which essentially means that government stays out of religious affairs, but that the people of many and varied faiths have the right to have their voice heard.