National Day of Prayer: Controversy Over Inclusiveness

May 2, 2002

Source: The Baltimore Sun

On May 2, 2002, The Baltimore Sun reported on the "Range of events planned for 'Day of Prayer.'" The article explained, "Organizers of the 51st annual event say it has taken on greater relevance and urgency since Sept. 11. They expect 'unprecedented' participation. ... But critics say the observance amounts to governmental promotion of religion. ... Others question the National Day of Prayer's inclusiveness. Although officially nonsectarian, the events tend to be heavily weighted toward Christianity. There is scarcely an interfaith prayer service in Baltimore to which Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat isn't invited. But Arafat, a college lecturer and chaplain at the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, said he was left out of today's festivities. ... Particularly given the events of Sept. 11, Arafat thinks interfaith prayer is important to create a feeling of solidarity. 'I really think that we do need to pray together,' he said." The article continued, "critics say the observance is aimed primarily at evangelical Christians. ... For this, national organizers make no apologies. 'We are the Christian expression of the National Day of Prayer,' said Jim Weidmann, vice chairman of the task force. ... 'Because there are fundamental differences in what we believe, there are fundamental differences in how we pray and worship. In order to stay true to the integrity of the message and who we are, we hold a Christian expression of the National Day of Prayer.' Those of other faiths can hold their own events, Weidmann added, 'just as they have the same rights and privileges on Sunday morning to open their doors to their temples and synagogues.'"