House 'Prayer Day' Resolutions Divide America, Violate Constitution

Resolutions Highlight Importance of Supreme Court Pick

"They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion."

- James Madison, Father of the Constitution, on his opposition to government-sponsored calls to prayer

One-fifth of U.S. House Members are co-sponsoring at least one of two resolutions that falsely assert the constitutionality of the National  Day of Prayer, an event that the Secular Coalition for America today decried as divisive and in violation of America's founding principles. The lobbying group representing the interests of atheists, agnostics, and all other secular Americans called upon Members of Congress to reject the resolutions and upon President Obama to end government-sanctioned religious events.

The first resolution (H.R. 1273), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and boasting 83 co-sponsors, purports to express the "sense of the House" that the National Day of Prayer is constitutional and a "fitting acknowledgment of our Nation's religious history." The second resolution (H.R. 1279), introduced by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), asks for an appeal of the recent federal court ruling that deemed the prayer day unconstitutional, and makes the wild claim that "public prayer and national days of prayer are a long-standing American tradition to bolster national resolve and summon the national will for victory." This resolution currently has 50 co-sponsors.

"When Billy Graham called for a national day of prayer in 1952 he said, 'The Capital City of our Nation can have a great spiritual awakening, thousands coming to Jesus Christ. . .' and challenged Congress to respond. The next day U.S. Representative Percy Priest introduced the National Day of Prayer Resolution as what he said was a response to Graham's challenge," said Secular Coalition for America Executive Director Sean Faircloth. "But the U.S. government shouldn't be in the business of sparking spiritual awakenings. As the court said, a statutorily-created National Day of Prayer is as illegal as would be a National Day of Blasphemy."

Expressing disappointment in President Obama's decision to go ahead with his proclamation of a National Day of Prayer despite the court's ruling, Faircloth noted, "In light of the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, this issue highlights the tremendous responsibility President Obama has in nominating a replacement. We must all call on the president and our U.S. Senators to only support a nominee with the courage to honor the values of our Constitution. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, wrote that government sponsored prayer 'seem[s] to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion.'"

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2010
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, 202-299-1091 / paul(at)

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