By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The National Day of Prayer Task Force, headquartered at the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, has issued a statement criticizing the Obama administration for the way it's marking the annual event this Thursday. Though the Obama administration has announced that it will issue a proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer, it will not hold a formal White House event, as George W. Bush had done for the past eight years.
The White House notes that presidents previous to Bush, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, were not in the habit of holding White House events for the National Day of Prayer. National Day of Prayer Task Force Vice Chairman Brian Toon recently acknowledged that there weren't regular White House events to mark the day until the Bush years, telling the Religion News Service: "There was no East Room event until George W."
Today, however, the task force E-mailed me to say it had uncovered evidence for two White House events in pre-Bush administrations: a 1989 breakfast event in the State Dining Room hosted by George H. W. Bush and a 1982 Rose Garden event with Reagan. Not exactly evidence that annual National Day of Prayer events were a well-established tradition in the pre-Bush years, but the task force is clearly upset.
Here's its statement:
While there will be tens of thousands of prayer gatherings throughout the nation, on May 7th, the Obama Administration announced there will not be a White House Observance for the National Day of Prayer this year, contrary to the administrations of President George W. Bush, President George H. W. Bush, and President Ronald Reagan. A White House Observance was not held during the administration of President Bill Clinton.
It has been announced the White House will release some kind of proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer, but apparently it will not be made available until Thursday, May 7, which makes it too late for organizations to distribute.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force, chaired by Shirley Dobson, will be holding an observance at the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday, May 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon. That observance is open to the public. The White House has been asked to send a representative on behalf of the Executive Branch, but no response has been received, as of today. The Legislative and Judicial Branches will be represented.
Shirley Dobson said today, "We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama Administration. At this time in our country's history, we would hope our President would recognize more fully the importance of prayer."