Last year we noted that The National Day of Prayer Task Force, headed by James Dobson’s wife Shirley and based out of Focus on the Family offices in Colorado, had somehow managed to appoint itself the “official” organizer of the National Day of Prayer.
According to its history, the National Day of Prayer is nothing more than a presidential proclamation, but in the late 1970s a group calling itself the National Prayer Committee was formed – which itself is a project of Mission America – and the NPC eventually created something called the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is dedicated to “organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values:”
The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.
Neither Mission America, the National Prayer Committee, or the National Day of Prayer Task Force are official representatives of the National Day of Prayer, but they certainly seems as if they are. If you search for “national day of prayer” on Google, the first link brings you the the Task Force website, as does every link on the National Prayer Committee’s website promoting the National Day of Prayer. And the National Day of Prayer has recently become a rally cry for the Religious Right, with the Alliance Defense Fund creating a Save the National Day of Prayer effort in response to a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation last year:
The suit alleges that a task force associated with Focus on the Family is “working hand-in-glove” with the government in organizing the National Day of Prayer.
The Foundation charges that the government “aligns and partners” with the NDP Task Force as the official organizer of the National Day of Prayer. The NDP Task Force identifies itself online as “The National Day of Prayer ‘Official Website.’ ” The task force has close ties to Focus on the Family. Its chair person, Shirley Dobson, is married to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and the task force is located in the Focus on the Family headquarters.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that the Bush Administration regularly included members of the Task Force in the White House’s Day of Prayer events – but it looks like that is about to change:
The National Day of Prayer Task Force had a friend in the White House. Every year, from 2001 to 2008, the Bush administration would invite members of the evangelical Christian organization to the White House to take part in a formal observance of the May 7 event.
But things are different in Washington now. This year, the Task Force – headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson – has not been invited to take part.
Needless to say, the Religious Right will presumably throw a fit about this, alleging that it is just further proof that President Obama hates America and its Christian heritage … by which they mean, of course, their quasi-official role in controlling the National Day of Prayer.