May 5, 2016 marks the 65th Annual National Day of Prayer.
Today is the 65th Annual National Day of Prayer. Elected officials meet up in Washington, DC and other states to pray for the nation. All citizens from all religious backgrounds are encouraged to evaluate their spirituality and their relationship with God. This tradition started in 1775 by a declaration from the Continental Congress for prayers for the formation of a new nation. This was officially enacted by law in 1952. All presidents with the exception of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson have issued proclamations for a national prayer day.
There have been various annual themes, this year’s being, “Wake up America.” On this day, an estimated 40,000 events are held nationwide. This range from prayer vigils and concerts, Bible reading marathons, rallies, public meetings in sports stadiums, prayer breakfasts, and voluntary services to the needy in the community.
Over the years, however, there has been some opposition to the celebrations with complaints of exclusion by some groups. Currently, 20% of Americans are non-religious and do not acknowledge the existence of a divine deity. There have been efforts to challenge the constitutionality of the holiday by groups such as The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). In 2008, they filed a suit in federal court which was eventually dismissed unanimously in 2011 by the federal appellate court. Slightly before in 2005, the American, United for the Separation of Church and State had held the first truly inclusive Prayer Day Event which catered for both religious and non-religious people in Oklahoma City.
— Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) May 5, 2016
This year, however, a resolution proposed by delegates Mike Honda of California and Eleanor Holmes Norton of Columbia offers an alternative to the National Day of Prayer. This is the much more secular National Day of Reason scheduled for the same day as NDP, the first Thursday of May. This is to be held for the first time this year on May 5. This day is set for both religious and non-religious Americans to examine their role of reason for the betterment of humanity. According to the two, the application of reason has had multiple benefits such as better living conditions, improved ethical and moral behavior and overall increased hope in the survival of mankind. Considering the impact of philosophies developed during the age of reason on the formation of the United States, reasoning coupled with scientific understanding and critical thinking can solve the current societal problems for the further betterment of mankind.
— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) May 5, 2016
Whatever verdict will be reached, the importance of this day cannot be understated and it should, therefore, include all nationals, despite their religious beliefs or lack thereof.