National Day of Prayer vs. May Day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 24, 2008 — 2 Comments

“Perhaps it’s just as well that you won’t be here tomorrow, to be offended by the sight of our May Day celebrations here.”Lord Summerisle, “The Wicker Man”

Next week, thanks to a quirk of the calendar, one of the biggest religious festivals within modern Paganism will coincide with the yearly National Day of Prayer. The National Day of Prayer, in theory a time for all Americans of faith to unite and pray (in their own manner) for the well-being of the country, has long been co-opted by conservative Christian evangelicals who operate a “task force”. This group (essentially run by Focus on The Family) runs the bulk of NDP events, and excludes non-Christians from active participation.

“The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.”

Sounds reasonable, right? Can’t the non-Christians throw their own party? The problem is that the NDPTF bills itself as the “official” site for the National Day of Prayer, and attacks any governor who won’t support their efforts with an official proclamation. In addition, Christian coordinators who attempt to throw an inclusive event under the NDPTF auspices are barred from running future events. So JewsOnFirst is calling for citizens to lobby their governors to shun the NDPTF, and either not issue a proclamation, or issue an inclusive statement that doesn’t empower such a narrow view of acceptable public prayer (or crib talking points from Focus on the Family).

“The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked! What began in 1952 as President Truman’s declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines. The “Task Force” excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics and even mainline Christians from participation in the events it coordinates around the country. Many of those events are staged in government venues with elected officials, in a deliberate affront to the separation of church and state.”

You can find contact information for your governor, here. You can find a sample telephone script and sample letter on the inclusive prayer day site. You can also find a listing of proclamations already issued.

Let’s hear it for inclusive prayer!

While I encourage my readers to participate in this call for inclusiveness, I think the fact that the National Day of Prayer falls on May Day/Beltane is far too good an opportunity to pass up! If there is a NDP event being held at your state capitol, why not take a gaggle of Pagans and Heathens in their best May-finery? Or why not hold an event as near as possible to the “official” NDPTF-organized shin-dig? Imagine May-poles and hobby-horses prancing while the evangelicals studiously pray against gay marriage. If the NDPTF is given a government building to hold their meeting, demand one for a really inclusive gathering! Invite anyone who’ll show up! Pray to your assorted gods and goddesses!

We’re a deeply religious people.

If all else fails, hold a procession past the capitol reminding the lawmakers that a “National Day of Prayer” includes all faiths, not just the ones with the political clout to co-opt it for their own ends. When a prayer event hijacked by conservative Christians falls on May Day, who knows what could happen!

Jason Pitzl-Waters