I don’t pray. I haven’t in years. For me, the issue of whether or not to pray today was a complete nonsense kind of question. If you went to my house and tried to find some Christian memorabilia, you’d be hard-pressed, and the closest thing you’d find is old wedding and funeral programs, along with some religious music I’m paid to play at such occasions.
With all that being said, I don’t care about the national day of prayer. I don’t consider it an affront to my non-believing ways that people want a proclamation of a day of prayer. Here’s the code, in case you’re curious (emphasis mine):
The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
You’ll note the “may.” It’s splitting hairs, but then if we’re going to parse the law (i.e. the first amendment) that everyone’s getting their panties in a twist over, then we’re going to parse the damn law. Note that “may” means we don’t have to pray, we just can if we want to. Here’s what the first amendment text is:
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.
You can point directly at this thing and say that Congress is respecting Christianity by giving it a special day all to itself. Of course, you can also point at Christmas break and talk about how the federal holidays recognize it as well, but people are suspiciously less outspoken against a day off work.
And that’s the thing, really. This law has hardly any force and effect, other than mandating a proclamation from the President, who, to date, has been a Christian of some variety exactly 44 times. If the law were suddenly repealed, I’d be doubtful that it’d stop the President from issuing some sort of proclamation, and therefore I also doubt it’d shut up the critics of the day. And that’s assuming the law could get repealed in the first place. For it to be challenged up to the Supreme Court, at which point I’d assume you’d have to have a case, at which point I’d assume you’d need to prove that this law adversely affected you directly, that hearing the words cascading from the President’s mouth asking people to honor something you simply don’t believe in has caused you literal harm. The only way I can see this is if people get beaten for not praying on this, our day of prayer, and somehow convert that to “it’s the law’s fault” (as though people who are nonsensical enough to beat someone for not praying are rational every other day without such a proclamation).
Aside from that avenue, which feels unlikely, it seems equally unlikely that Congress will overturn it by virtue of the fact that the Christian base is pretty damn strong in elections. Basically, what I’m saying is: “They’re here, they fear [God], get used to it.”
And that little play on words is where I really get to the meat of why the criticism I’ve heard thus far bothers me: I know plenty of atheists. Some of them are even, dare I make this joke, gaytheists (they’re gay and atheists). And that last pun represents the only people I’ve seen up in arms about this. Just a few months ago, I could have dropped some article about Proposition 8 in front of them and they’d get royally heated, how the Government stripped people’s rights. They might even say “Hey, if the people who hate gay marriage don’t like it, they just shouldn’t get married to another person of the same sex.” That argument is perfectly valid. Then they’d go on about challenging such an unjust thing in the courts.
And they wouldn’t see any parallels.
The problem with Proposition 8, is that it was an amendment to California’s constitution. Now, I don’t know the process in California by rote, but it stands to reason it’s like US Government Jr., as are most state constitutions. That means that it’d be pretty difficult, if not impossible, to mount any sort of legal challenge. But that won’t stop people from arguing that it violates some basic legally-guaranteed rights. Well, in California, it technically doesn’t.
And that’s the thing, fighting against this religious thing while fighting against that anti-gay thing is cherry-picking your battles. You either respect a Constitution, or you don’t. And you either recognize people’s right to do things their way, or you don’t. I don’t pray. I haven’t in years. This law has no force and effect to make me pray, so I just plain don’t see why we have to fight this battle.