(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Rev. Amy Zalk Larson, on behalf of the Decorah Area Faith Coalition):
"Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. This is a nonsectarian annual observance enacted by Congress "on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation." (Public Law 82-324.) This day belongs to all Americans, not just Christians. In this time of increased religious violence, it is important for people to come together to pray and meditate for our nation. However, a private organization called the National Day of Prayer Task Force has worked to become the public face of the National Day of Prayer, despite no official relationship between the two entities. The task force, a conservative evangelical group with a very specific statement of beliefs, has established the website www.NationalDayofPrayer.org to provide organization for prayer events around the country, including the one that will be held at noon Thursday at our county courthouse. Task force co-coordinators in Decorah have invited only certain people, all Christian men, to lead prayers at the courthouse. When they were asked if people of other faiths could participate, the co-coordinators responded no, those people could have their own event.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is well within their rights to lead public prayers in a public space in keeping with their own beliefs. What is problematic is that they do not make clear that they are a private organization with a particular religious and political agenda. They promote their events as the official National Day of Prayer events.
In an article highlighting the difference between the National Day of Prayer and the National Day of Prayer Task Force, Steve Thorngate, Associate Editor of "Christian Century" writes, "The odd role of National Day of Prayer Task Force illustrates a classic religious right stance: celebrating the free expression of conservative Protestantism as one faith among many while also offering it as the default content to fill civil religious forms." (To read the entire article, which, we should note, is listed as "Opinion" and not as "News," visit https://www.christiancentury.org/article/opinion/national-day-prayer-and-sectarian-group-uses-its-name)
The Decorah Area Faith Coalition has planned an alternate prayer event on the National Day of Prayer. We will gather at noon Thursday in the Water Street Park (next to the Co-op) for a multi-faith time of prayer and meditation."