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May 5, 2009
3:16 PM

Americans United Commends Obama for Discontinuing Religious Right-Focused Prayer Event at White House

President Will Sign Proclamation, But Won't Hold White House Event

WASHINGTON - May 5 - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended President Barack Obama for discontinuing an annual Religious Right-focused prayer service held during the previous eight years at the White House.

Obama has indicated that he will sign a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, but that no special White House prayer service will be held.

This stands in contrast to the George W. Bush administration that invited James and Shirley Dobson and other Religious Right leaders to the White House for an annual government-sponsored prayer service. The relationship appeared to give governmental endorsement to the Dobsons' National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private fundamentalist group that sponsors Christians-only prayer meetings around the country.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, issued the following statement about the Obama decision:

"I am pleased that President Obama has made this decision. The president is required by federal law to declare a National Day of Prayer, but there is no requirement that a special event be held at the White House in observance of this event.

"During the Bush years, the Dobsons and other Religious Right leaders were given special access to the White House. That seems to have come to an end, and I'm glad.

"Congress should never have mandated a National Day of Prayer. Americans don't need the government telling them when to pray and what to pray for. But if the federal government is going to set aside a prayer day, it should recognize the broad diversity of faiths, not just fundamentalist Christians."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.


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