This morning, President Bush celebrated a National Day of Prayer, an annual non-sectarian rite going back decades. A much younger tradition was also observed: a phony “official” Day of Prayer group tried to usurp the national celebration with its own Religious Right-flavored broadcast.
As we explained last year, the National Day of Prayer Task Force—chaired by Shirley Dobson, James Dobson’s wife—is in fact an independent group whose platform runs contrary to the multi-faith spirit of the law. NDPTF specifically excludes participation by “Non-Judeo-Christian” groups, promotes fighting a “cultural war,” and its volunteers must swear their belief in an inerrant Bible.
Despite efforts this year by Jews on First, the Interfaith Alliance, and others to clarify that NDPTF is not a federal agency, confusion remains. The president himself helped to muddy the waters during the official White House ceremony, inviting the Dobsons and others involved with NDPTF and opening his remarks by thanking Shirley Dobson “for being the Chairman of the National Day of Prayer.”
The NDPTF ceremony this afternoon featured segments on the three branches of government, each featuring a prominent Republican speaker. The representative of the judicial branch was Judge Janice Rogers Brown, perhaps the most extreme-right of the controversial appeals-court nominees put forth by Bush. After Brown spoke on the nation’s “spiritual trajectory” (through events such as putting “In God We Trust” on coins), Vonette Bright—widow of Bill Bright and co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ—led a prayer for more right-wing judges to “uphold God’s plan for marriage” and ban abortion: