National Day of Prayer letter to the editor

On April 22nd I read a letter to the editor about the National Day of Prayer. It made no sense.

That this case was not dismissed is ridiculous. One’s decision about whether to pray or to participate in organized prayer is an entirely personal decision, protected by the Constitution.

(Judge) Crabb’s ruling says that she believes the government has the right to decide otherwise. A judge cannot undo the Constitution.

This was baffling to me because right before this, the writer (Stephen Russ) had just quoted where the Judge said that praying is a personal decision. In other words, the guy used the Judge’s logic, but stopped short of its conclusion when it became inconvenient. As such, I was compelled to respond.

In a letter on April 22, Stephen Russ said a recent federal ruling on the National Day of Prayer was “ridiculous.” He continued, “One’s decision about whether to pray or to participate in organized prayer is an entirely personal decision, protected by the Constitution.” He then bizarrely claimed that the ruling undermines this personal decision.

What makes this really weird is that Russ also quoted the judge’s decision, where she said that prayer is personal and government ought not interfere with “an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.” This specifically speaks to the fact that the National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion; via the government, it encourages individuals to specific religious action.

What so many believers miss is the fact that one cannot have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. An endorsement of a specific religious act will run counter to another religion every time.

But even should there somehow not be an inter-religious conflict, believers are not to be given preference over atheists and other non-believers. It, of course, happens all the time, but, ideally and constitutionally, it should not.

And, in fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that atheism is as protected as any religion. This does not mean atheism is a religion — no more than not collecting stamps is a hobby — but it does mean that the government cannot have a preference for religion over a lack of religion.

But just for giggles, let’s say the National Day of Prayer is constitutional. It then follows that the government also can encourage a lack of praying. How would Russ and other believers feel about a National Day of Godlessness? It would improve society, I think, but it certainly would be unconstitutional.

(Damn you, Kennebec Journal, for changing my en dash to that ugly, double en, pseudo-em dash.)

As stunning as my take-downs always are, some people still disagree. For example, one person in the online comment section said this (in direct response to another user):

There is no mandate, nobody is going to be “penalized” on their income tax for not praying, or not saying a prayer that is satisfactory to the IRS. You need to go back and review the history of the establishment clause and relevant court cases. The government can not “establish” an official religion or require participation in a specific religion. Nor can it act in any way which gives a preference to a specific religion. When the majority of us establish that day and use the government to distribute that, or our representatives meet and determine that the day is going to be “May 6”, or whenever. That is our right. Don’t like Democracy unless you’re shoving it down someone else’s throat huh?

Got that? Government cannot act in any way which gives preference to a specific religion, but if a majority of people decide they don’t like that, it’s their choice. And that’s just democracy!

Only a member of a majority religion could possibly think the National Day of Prayer makes any legal sense.

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