In an ideological conflict not seen since the great Jesus/Darwin fish wars, the faithful and faithless are battling it out over how we should spend our first Thursday in May.
The annual National Day of Prayer takes place on May 2 this year. Created by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress amid the anti-Communism paranoia of the early 1950s, the event is an official day of observance in which Americans of all faiths are encouraged to pray for the nation. The constitutionality of the Day of Prayer has been challenged by secular groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues that the federal statute is tantamount to a state endorsement of religion — a violation of the First Amendment. In 2011, a federal appeals court threw out the foundation’s challenge, after which the group announced that it would seek a rehearing.
In the meantime, other godless groups are battling the Day of Prayer in the court of public opinion. The American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists created the National Day of Reason, a counter-observance to “inspire the secular community to be visible and active” and to “set the right example for how to effect positive change.” Like its religious counterpart, the Day of Reason — which turns 10 this year — is also held on the first Thursday in May, only instead of prayer, the observance encourages participants to show their support for the idea that government and religion should be separate.
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