By DREW LINGINFELTE
Preparing for the National Day of Prayer may be a peaceful, invoking process for some, but for others it is a challenge to their belief in the American way.
On April 3, President Clinton declared Thursday as a National Day of Prayer to “affirm our country’s spiritual roots and to humbly express our gratitude to the source of our abundant good fortune.”
“As we seek to renew the values that have long strengthened America’s families and communities, let us reach out to God and to one another for wisdom and courage,” President Clinton said.
He continued to say in the proclamation, “We should celebrate this day in the tradition of our founders who believed that God governs in the affairs of men and women, and who based their greatest hopes, dreams and aspirations on the surety of divine protection.”
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has given its support to Clinton’s proclamation.
“We enthusiastically endorse the designation of May 2, 1996, as a National Day of Prayer. The importance of prayer is emphasized throughout the scriptures,” said the First Presidency in a news release.
“If there ever was a time when families were in need of spiritual armor to withstand the onslaught of such influences, it is now. We encourage all to daily offer prayers of thanksgiving and to seek through those prayers guidance and inspiration to meet the challenges of each day,” the First Presidency stated in the release.
Some however, do not see a benefit in declaring a day of prayer. American Atheists have called on President Clinton to withdraw the proclamation because they see it as a violation of the First Amendment.
Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists said, “Mr. Clinton should be president of all Americans, not just of the religious. Over 10 percent of this nation’s citizens are atheists, and millions more agree with us that government should not be orchestrating sectarian worship services like a Day of Prayer.”
Johnson said, “The First Amendment gives all Americans freedom of religion and freedom from religion.” She said she believes the proclamation does not forward the separation of church and state the Founders of the nation sought.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would protect religious groups’ abilities to access government resources.
In his introduction to the amendment, Hatch said, “In my view, our nation benefits greatly from the participation of religious institutions in the public square. Religious values and influences are important components in addressing the social problems facing our country.”
President Clinton reiterated religious freedom in his proclamation: “The desire for religious freedom was one of the chief reasons that early settlers risked their lives to come to this land. Many of those who braved the long ocean journey were men and women of devout religious beliefs who sought a new home where they might worship without persecution.”
The president concluded by encouraging “every citizen of this great nation to pray, each in his or her own manner, seeking strength from God to face the challenges of today, requesting guidance for the uncertainties of tomorrow, and giving thanks for the rich blessings that our nation has enjoyed throughout our history.”
Neither Provo nor Orem have activities planned for the National Day of Prayer.