A bipartisan group of U.S. House members offered a simple message to the American people today: "Pray, or God will lift his caring hand from the great nation."
Over three dozen representatives joined U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol today to urge Americans to pray for the U.S. and its leaders for at least five minutes each week. Forbes, who is also the leader of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, said he hopes "God will hear our prayers and heal our land."
Each member spoke for 30 seconds, and many gave personal testimony about the power of prayer in their personal and professional lives. Several members put a sectarian spin on their messages, suggesting that surrendering to Jesus Christ is the only thing that could save our nation. U.S.Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) beseeched the nation to "glorify the name of Jesus Christ," because as his colleague Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said, "Jesus is always the answer."
U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said "prayer is the solution" to America's many problems. Remarks were greeted with "Amen!" "Yes!" and "Thank You, Jesus!" from the small crowd of mostly Hill staffers and tourists.
Forbes mentioned that his colleagues were calling people of all faiths to pray, but that they would "let God sort out" which were the "right" prayers, done in the "right" way. Interestingly, Christianity was the only faith represented at today's gathering.
Forbes closed the press event with a Christian prayer given by Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall on March 18, 1948.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison must be spinning in their graves! These two Founders and champions of religious liberty believed that religious decisions were the individual's alone. They saw the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as a bulwark against governmental meddling in matters of faith.
Madison said in 1788, "There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation."
Jefferson refused to call for days of prayer as president because he believed that even encouraging religious practice would "indirectly assume to the U.S. an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from." He saw no difference between requiring and recommending prayer because even a simple proclamation carried the same authority, the same sanction "by some penalty [on] those who disregard it; not...of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion."
Religious freedom and diversity has flourished in this country because government, for the most part, has left religion to the people. For lawmakers to call Americans to their knees and insist that religious worship is the only way to solve our many problems is insulting, divisive and, frankly, unconstitutional.