President Bush Promotes Dobson Prayer Event at White House Ceremony

Church & State, June 2001 | Go to article overview
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President Bush Promotes Dobson Prayer Event at White House Ceremony


President George W. Bush used the National Day of Prayer to help promote the Religious Right agenda and further cement his ties with religious conservatives, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"George W. Bush is president of all the people," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "He should not use his office to promote a narrow religious agenda. He holds the office of president, not national pastor."

In 1952 Congress passed a federal law requiring an annual observance of a national day of prayer. In 1988, at the behest of the Religious Right, the date of the event was officially set by Congress as the first Thursday in May.

Since then, control of the observance, intended to be broadly ecumenical, has been effectively taken over by the Religious Right. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, a nonprofit private group headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Religious Right broadcaster James Dobson, coordinates virtually all of the prayer day events in Washington, D.C., and around the country. The task force budget now tops $1 million, which is raised primarily through donations from foundations and individuals and the sale of NDP merchandise.

The NDP Task Force operates from the headquarters of Dobson's Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo. As Expected, the Task Force's events reflect a fundamentalist Christian view of the world and advance the claim that America was founded to be a "Christian nation."

Despite this narrow religious approach, President Bush actively assisted the Dobson crusade. In a May 2 Focus on the Family fax newsletter, White House liaison Tim Goeglin announced that NDP events in Washington, D.C., would be hosted by Bush. In his April 30 NDP proclamation Bush adopted the Task Force theme of "One Nation Under God" as his own. He even quoted from a special prayer written for the Task Force by evangelist Billy Graham.

At a White House ceremony, Shirley Dobson presented Bush with a cowboy-themed religious painting. Bush praised her work and called on Americans to join the prayer day observance.

In addition to the Dobsons, the other 125 guests at the White House event included TV preacher Jerry Falwell and Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt.

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