President Trump is marking the National Day of Prayer, May 4, 2017, by issuing an executive order that will allow church and religious institutions and other tax-exempt institutions to support a political candidate without compromising their tax exempt status.
The National Day of Prayer was first observed in 1952, launched by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. A privately funded National Prayer Day Task Force says the group “represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance.” But it describes its mission as “mobilising people of all faiths to pray.”
And many do. Here are a few from New York City, and what they are praying for:
Rabbi Paul Radensky of Old Broadway Synagogue: “We pray that the president and the leaders of the country be imbued with wisdom so that they can carry out their job to the benefit of everyone who lives here as well as to the benefit of the Jewish community.”
A deacon of St. Mary’s Church on 126th St in Harlem: “We prayed for the Nation and president Obama in the past. We pray for the betterment of the African-American community against political and economic oppression.”.
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Father Joseph Kinda of St. Joseph’s Church (pictured above) in West Harlem: “We are mostly French speaking people from West African countries like Bali, Burkina Faso, Godiva, Benin, Congo, Cameron, Togo and so forth. We pray for the leadership of this country in our services. We pray that the U.S. continue to live up to its image of the U.S. that welcomes everybody. Help people to live together in peace.”
Today is also the National Day of Reason, created in 2003 by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists as a response to what it sees as the unconstitutionality of National Day of Prayer.
NYC Atheists representative Ken Bronstein said that “One of our main goals is the separation of state and church. Prayer doesn’t help solve the problem. It is self-talk.”
Representative Ted Lieu from California introduced the National Day of Reason resolution alongside his colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) today. He also issued a statement on National Day of Reason that says in part, “At a time when people are disputing indisputable facts and axing scientific funding, celebrating reason and logic are more important than ever.”
The Center for Inquiry, in a press release issued Thursday, denounced President Trump’s executive order easing the tax exempted religious institutions from restrictions to engage in a political issue. It says: “While this executive order won’t accomplish much in practical terms, it sends a signal that Trump is looking to reward his conservative evangelical base. But this political payback is divisive and dangerous, blurring the line between church leadership and political operatives.”
Students Secular Alliance Executive Director August Brunsman also issued a statement saying, “Every American who believes that our political landscape has too much private, secret money in it, should be horrified by Trump’s executive order. This executive order clears the way to effectively take all limits off of private, secret money in politics. It even lets the billionaires who will be giving that money get a tax deduction. ”
Finding churches full of prayer is particularly easy in West Harlem, which has a huge religious presence dating back before the time of the civil rights movement. The area is marked by many places of worship— churches, synagogues, mosques, and more.