WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has no plans to back out of a National Day of Prayer event after being urged by a prominent activist group to withdraw, reports state.
Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, recently sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking that the Department of Defense distance itself from next month’s observance in Washington. Weinstein said that military participation in the event would suggest the government endorsement of Christianity.
“The planned participation by uniformed U.S. military personnel in this private fundamentalist Christian religious event, run by a non-federal entity, is an unequivocally clear violation of [a] plethora of DoD regulations and instructions,” the letter stated. “The U.S. military absolutely cannot endorse these searingly sectarian events by its public participation in them.”
The event, which will be held at the Cannon House Office building on May 1st, is organized by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, led by Shirley Dobson. Weinstein said that he takes no issue with the National Day of Prayer itself, but believes that the Task Force is using the event to push Christianity on the people.
“The National Day of Prayer Task Force is to the National Day of Prayer as what a National Football League al-Qaida chapter would be to the National Football League,” he stated, according to the Army Times.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) had requested military participation in the event, which will include a color guard, a military band, a vocalist and a chaplain. Other scheduled speakers will include Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, James and Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family and Vonette Bright, the co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Weinstein says that he has received over two dozen complaints from Pentagon workers who object to military participation the prayer gathering. He also expressed disappointment in his correspondence that the only Jewish representation at the event will be a messianic leader, since Weinstein himself is a Jew.
He asked that the Department of Defense not only pull out of the event, but all punish those that approved military participation.
“[The Military Religious Freedom Foundation] respectfully demands that [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] aggressively investigate and appropriately punish any of the individuals and/or organizations that would have allowed for uniformed personnel to participate in this sectarian spectacle,” Weinstein wrote.
But according to Stars & Stripes, the military has no plans to withdraw from the gathering, which has been observed annually via the National Day of Prayer Task Force for over the past two decades.
Other national prayer observances have been held since the nation’s founding and often centered on Christianity. In 1798, President John Adams proclaimed a national day of humiliation, prayer and fasting.
“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him,” he wrote, “…this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty and of danger, when existing or threatening calamities—the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity—are a loud call to repentance and reformation.”