Today is the National Day of Prayer. Once again, the president of the United States will use his office to sponsor an event that directly encourages religiosity in this nation contrary to our laws and founding documents. To be clear; I have absolutely no problem with prayer in the private sphere of life, anyone can pray in any way they want in their private time. If Obama and any other politicians want to pray, that is great but they do not have the authority to use their public office to sponsor such a thing.
To clear up any confusion, the Day was created in 1952. Similar to the time frame that “Under God” was added to our Pledge, which was in 1954. These are not old or traditional, they were added far from the founding of our nation and are clear violations of the first amendment. They were created during the Cold War, when the opponent was godless communism. In an effort to separate us totally from the USSR, certain American lawmakers decided to give our country a much more religious focus to show a more drastic comparison to the forced atheism of the Soviet Union. I even understand the rationale somewhat, the clear overriding fear of communism in the 50’s motivated many weird and terrible events such as the McCarthy witch hunts and the war in Vietnam. However this does not justify us in preserving these aspects of Cold War fear, we need to re-enforce our clear separation of church and state in this nation.
Last year, the National Day of Prayer was deemed to be unconstitutional, though Obama ignored that ruling and still held it. That decision had since been reversed this year but is once again being challenged in a higher US court. I am not targeting Obama specifically in this, it would be political suicide to ignore it. The religious right has renewed its efforts through the Tea Party to reinforce Christian ideology through the American government. Once again, I have no problem whatsoever of prayer being said within private homes or even in public by private individuals; as long as they are not using a public office to draw attention to it.
20% of the American population now identifies as “non-religious”. Are we to continue the current policy of alienating them? Or should we try to be accepting of contrary points of view as our Constitution allows for? I say the latter, and to do so we need to roll back these Cold War religious policies. They are outdated and discriminatory in nature.