So if it’s that old…

April 16, 2010

…what did you need a law for?

As per Pharyngula, the National Day of Prayer has been declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District judge in…California? Vermont? No, Wisconsin. The judge, wisely expecting further appeals, wrote that the ruling shouldn’t stop the prayer-days unless the appeals are exhausted. Even if Obama didn’t have the Justice dept. pursue it to the Supreme Court (and oh, he will…he will) I am sure any number of religious-right organizations would step up eagerly. The Supreme Court will weigh in on this, if they want to. I suspect they will, and I suspect they will reverse this. I have no great confidence that this will stand.

But for now, a little jig of despair as a small piece of religious crap thrown into the gov’t back in the 50’s gets a dent in its spiritual armor. How do I know this is from the fifties? I know this from the site backing the prayer-day itself.

In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a joint resolution of Congress to set aside an annual National Day of Prayer.  Congress amended the law in 1988, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan, for the purpose of establishing a more particular date.  The law currently reads, “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”  The Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the constitutionality of the statute in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The tradition of designating an official day of prayer actually began with the Continental Congress in 1775, after which President George Washington issued a National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation.  Ever since, American presidents have made similar proclamations and “appeals to the Almighty.” Historically, all 50 governors, along with U.S. presidents, have issued proclamations in honor of the National Day of Prayer.

So, consider the fallacious appeal to tradition invoked in this article that I’ve quoted. You will be seeing this often in relation to the NDOP in the coming days. It may be rightly dismissed as fallacy and done.

But what amuses me about this, is that the country demonstrably went on with this tradition in place without any law requiring it for years — decades — nearly two centuries, before this law was passed during the Truman administration.

During the Commie scare, when a similar law regarding the ‘in god we trust’ motto was mandated for our money, putting us in the amusing situation of making our god look like…money, Mammon. Though you can see the money-worship dates back to the Civil War. This was also when ‘under god’ was inserted into the pledge of allegiance, another tradition being fanatically defended by the religious right. This was the time of McCarthyism, nothing to be particularly proud of as American history goes.

This is the tradition now being defended by the religious right. These traditions, painted as being from time immemorial. More like 50-60 years tops, folks. And if you’re going to defend them from the perspective of the Founding Fathers, I will point out with a laugh how they managed to create and honor these traditions without any recourse to the law. Of course, those poor slave-owning deists and skeptics — mere human beings — have been mythologized into uber-xians by the religious right.

Tradition. Feh.

P.S. I had to peek at what Fox News had to say so far. And I found this amusing comment.

Did not even know there was a day of prayer, i hope we dont lose this day.

I sent in my own, which may or may not survive moderation…but I have to ask such a person, if you didn’t even know this existed, what have you lost? You were that apathetic — ignorant of this prayer-day and its law — and yet you feel some sense of loss? Why? Do you need a law telling you to pray? Do you need the gov’t to tell you to pray, and when, and how? Why?

Edit: My comment did make it onto that Fox news page. That whole comment section is fairly lol-worthy.  🙂


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