Last week we wrote about how, this year, it didn’t look like the National Day of Prayer Task Force, headed by Shirley Dobson, was going to be involved in any formal White House observance of the event.
And that is now officially the case … mainly because there will be no White House event:
The National Day of Prayer White House event is history — for now.
The White House has announced that President Obama will sign a proclamation on the National Day of Prayer, to be held on Thursday, but will not hold any sort of event. This marks a return to the practice of presidents before George W. Bush, who hosted religious leaders for a ceremony in honor of the day.
As Brian Toon, vice chairman of the organization, recently explained to Religion News Service, prior to the last administration, his group had not been involved in any White House event, saying that “there was no East Room event until George W.”
Of course, just because George Bush was the only president to hold annual Day of Prayer events in the White House doesn’t mean the NDPTF won’t take this as an opportunity to slam Obama for not having one, as Dan Gilgoff reports:
The White House notes that presidents previous to Bush, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, were not in the habit of holding White House events for the National Day of Prayer … Today, however, the task force E-mailed me to say it had uncovered evidence for two White House events in pre-Bush administrations: a 1989 breakfast event in the State Dining Room hosted by George H. W. Bush and a 1982 Rose Garden event with Reagan.
As Gilgoff notes, those two events (one held twenty years ago and the other held twenty-seven years ago) are “not exactly evidence that annual National Day of Prayer events were a well-established tradition in the pre-Bush years.”
But still the NDPTF has issued a statement voicing its disappointment “in the lack of participation by the Obama Administration”:
While there will be tens of thousands of prayer gatherings throughout the nation, on May 7th, the Obama Administration announced there will not be a White House Observance for the National Day of Prayer this year, contrary to the administrations of President George W. Bush, President George H. W. Bush, and President Ronald Reagan. A White House Observance was not held during the administration of President Bill Clinton.
It has been announced the White House will release some kind of proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer, but apparently it will not be made available until Thursday, May 7, which makes it too late for organizations to distribute.
Shirley Dobson said today, “We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama Administration. At this time in our country’s history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer.”
Of course, the Obama administration is still going to issue the proclamation, as it is required to do, it just won’t be holding an event or inviting the Task Force to participate – which is pretty much what every other president, save George W. Bush, has done.
And for that, it is being accused of ignoring the “importance of prayer” – though, in reality, what the NDPTF is really angry about is the fact that the administration is ignoring the NDPTF.
UPDATE: See also CWA’s Wendy Wright saying that while “President Obama may have problems believing in the Christian faith, he should at least honor the traditions and foundation of our country.”