The Military and the National Day of Prayer

As previously noted, the National Day of Prayer is May 1st, by virtue of Presidential declaration and in accordance with US law.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has complained that the NDP “task force” (associated with Focus on the Family) has coordinated with military bases and Chaplains for the observance.  Using his oft-repeated hyperbolic and alliterative talking points, Weinstein promised

that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation fully [intended] to include this despicable collusion in [their] current Federal litigation against the Department of Defense as yet another stunning example of a pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape [of] religious liberties…

Jason Leopold, a former journalist and frequent voice for the MRFF, took issue with the fact that coordinators for the task force were required to sign a statement that ‘confirmed their commitment to Christ.’

Leopold’s concern, though, and the MRFF agreement with it, reveal an interesting, and problematic, demand:  the “declaration” of Christianity required by the task force is no different than the “public declaration of faith” at a Christian baptism, or, for that matter, the public declaration of any faith.  Would the MRFF prefer that no military member be permitted to interact with his fellow servicemembers after making a “declaration of faith?”

There is no legal or Consitutional prohibition against military members having an “exclusive” faith, nor is there one against professing or exercising those beliefs.  Anyone who would suggest that military members not be allowed to publicly declare their belief in an exclusive faith–whether that be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or even an “exclusive” brand of atheism–would gut the very Constitutional freedoms they claim to be “protecting.”

The concern over the National Day of Prayer is ex nihilo.  The Presidential declaration called for prayer “each according to his own faith.”  The military serves the needs of all the faiths of its members, including those of “exclusive” faiths and those without any.  The fact that it receives community support from religious organizations–of many faiths–does not mean that the government therefore “establishes” any particular one.

Military members are free to participate (or not) in the observance of the National Day of Prayer in whatever association they choose.  (There is even a push for an “inclusive” NDP, which offers itself as an alternative.)  As the NDP task force noted,

All Americans are free to exercise their First Amendment rights to organize events that observe the National Day of Prayer in a manner that reflects their religious perspective.

Those that claim the NDP is another “evangelical coup” see conspiracy where none exists.  The Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty preserve freedom for all, including those with whom one may disagree.


  • Richard Baker

    It is my understanding that the NDP Task Force excludes participation by Catholic organizations and other religious leaders.

    If this is indeed the case, then it would certainly be yet another “Evangelical Coup.”

    It is my opinion that if such a case exists that participation by military entities in the presentatation of this exclusive event would be contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First Amendment by elevating a specific segment of religion and demonstrating government favoritism thereto.

    I would be interested in knowing whether, in fact, such exclusivity is in effect RE the NDP.

  • Richard,

    Here is what Wikipedia says concerning the NDP Task Force,

    “The “National Day of Prayer Task Force” coordinates many local observances of the National Day of Prayer. it is an independent non-profit organization and does not act on behalf of the federal government.”

    They are a groupof evangelical Christians who have organized to promote Prot Christian Prayer on the NDP. Not only is it your understanding that they exclude participation by Roman Catholics, it is in fact TRUE that they “exclude” Roman Catholics. The exclusion, if you wish to call it that, is based on a set of doctrinal beliefs.

    How is it an evangelical coup for a group to organize and promote NDP events on Military Installations when EVERY religious group has the same opportunity?

    When you say that this elevates a “specific segment of religion” you are wrong because the opportunity exists for everyone. If only one group were allowed, then your claim would be founded.