On Thursday, communities around the U.S. are taking a moment to focus on their faith, reflect and pray.
May 5 marks the 2022 National Day of Prayer.
It’s a yearly observance held on the first Thursday in May, where the faithful are asked to pray for the country, according to the National Day of Prayer website.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force, which runs the site, is a privately funded organization, not a government agency.
Still, there have been court challenges that say that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
The First Amendment reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In 2010, a federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer went against the law of the land because it “goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context,” CBS News reported in the past
That ruling was overturned in 2011, with the court saying that the group that had challenged the law establishing the day of prayer did not have the standing to file suit with the court, as “alienation cannot suffice as injury.”
A group of atheists and agnostics from the Freedom From Religion Foundation said that it violated the separation of church and state, CBS News reported.
President Barak Obama’s administration challenged the 2010 ruling, saying that the National Day of Prayer acknowledges the role religion has in the U.S.
As recently as 2022, several members of Congress introduced a measure asking for the creation of a National Day of Reason as a counter to the National Day of Prayer, The Freedom from Religion Foundation said.
The religious observation was created in 1952 by a joint resolution from Congress and was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.
But faith — not a specific religion — just belief has been a cornerstone of the U.S. since its inception.
There was a call to prayer in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked for prayers for wisdom when creating the country. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 calling for a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer.”
President Ronald Reagan amended Truman’s 1952 law, designating the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Prayer with the president in office issuing a new proclamation each year, encouraging Americans to pray that day.
Last year, all U.S. governors issued their own proclamations, and the governors in many U.S. territories followed suit.
President Joe Biden issued his proclamation on May 4, 2022.
“Throughout our history, prayer has been an anchor for countless Americans searching for strength and wisdom in times of struggle and sharing hope and gratitude in seasons of joy. In public reflections on life’s many blessings and in quiet moments during life’s most difficult trials, Americans of nearly every background and faith have turned to prayer for comfort and inspiration. Prayer is a sacred right protected by free speech and religious liberty enshrined in our Constitution, and it continues to lift our spirits as we navigate the challenges of our time.”
Biden cited the “trauma and loss” created by COVID-19, saying we’re in “a moment of renewal — of lives saved, of new jobs created, and of new hope for rebuilding America.”
But he also said that the country is facing challenges including climate change, attacks on democracy both domestically and internationally, “and living up to our Nation’s promise of liberty, justice, and equality for all.”
Biden called on Americans, “no matter how or whether we pray, we are all called to look outside ourselves. Let us find in our hearts and prayers the determination to put aside our differences, come together, and truly see one another as fellow Americans.”
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