- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010

SAY AMEN SOMEBODY

Evangelist Franklin Graham won’t be appearing in any official capacity at the Pentagon on Thursday but he will be at the Cannon House Office Building from 9 a.m. to noon for the 59th observance of the newly embattled National Day of Prayer. The event was challenged in federal court recently, and Mr. Graham’s invitation to speak before a military audience was rescinded by Army officials who felt it would be “inappropriate” because the religious leader once characterized Islam as “evil.”

But there’s some political muscle at work: 31 lawmakers - including Congressional Prayer Caucus co-chairmen Reps. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, and Mike McIntyre, North Carolina Democrat - have stepped forward to defend the day. Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, has introduced a resolution to deem it a “fitting acknowledgment of our nation’s religious history.” Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican, has introduced a bill asking for an appeal to U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb’s decision that ruled the day “unconstitutional.”

But hey, this is America. The legislation is also being questioned by the Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group representing atheists and agnostics; the group is also asking President Obama to end government-sanctioned religious events.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, issued a proclamation to recognize the National Day of Prayer on April 30 saying, “I call upon the citizens of our nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I invite all people of faith to join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection as we meet the challenges before us.”

Mr. Graham himself wrote a prayer for National Prayer Day, which says in part, “Help us to pray earnestly for our president and leaders who govern, that they will humble themselves and seek Your guidance so that everything we do will shine the light of Your glory in a darkened world. May our prayers as a people and a nation be heard and blessed for such a time as this.”

NOT OVER YET

The health care reform debate will not fade away like an old soldier if George E. Pataki has anything to do with it.

“It’s part of our mission not to let a bill that President Obama, House Speaker NancyPelosi and Sen. Harry Reid rammed through Congress just continue on, a fait accompli,” the former New York governor tells Inside the Beltway.

Now chairman of Revere America, an organization that supports “common sense public policies,” Mr. Pataki is on a cross-country consciousness-raising tour that continues to question the health care reform. The strategy includes a national petition “to replace Obamacare” (found at www.revereamerica.org) and public rallies; Thursday’s version is in Greensburg, Pa.

“We’re aiming for a million signatures. And I’m finding that the public is still very much engaged in this issue. They followed the health care debates and they understand what’s at stake - not like Mrs. Pelosi’s idea that we’d find out what was in the bill after it passed,” Mr. Pataki says. “I am very encouraged by what I’ve seen so far from both sides of politics who understand that this is not a partisan initiative, it is a policy initiative.”

BUMPER PATROL

“Spill Baby Spill?”

Bumper sticker spotted in Chevy Chase, Md.

UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS

“A State Duma deputy has called on [Russian] President Dmitry Medvedev to check whether Kalmyk leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov might have divulged state secrets to aliens whom he claimed to have met in 1997. Ilyumzhinov, 48, a flamboyant politician known for throwing expensive chess extravaganzas since becoming president of the Buddhist republic in southern Russia in 1993, will finish his fourth term in office in October, and Medvedev will have to decide whether to appoint him for another five years.”

(From the Moscow Times on Wednesday)

SLICK BUSINESS

The BP oil spill, now larger than Puerto Rico, menaces several coastlines. Taxpayers will foot the bill for government; great schools of lawyers are already swimming toward the sullied waters, in search of clients whose livelihoods have been compromised by the toxic slick. They’ve got the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 on their side - passed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Those charterboat captains and commercial fishermen could have a long journey; the law requires they file claims with BP before any civil lawsuits go forward. And no one knows if BP’s pockets are as deep as their oil drilling rigs, though some of the murk may lift once the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee looks into the BP matter next week.

“The lawyers are forming a line all up and down the Gulf,” says Dallas lawyer Clint David, who specializes in business dispute resolutions. “Everyone and their mother is going to be filing suit. Getting paid is going to be the tricky part. The Exxon-Valdez disaster happened in 1989 and there are folks who are still waiting for a check from that one.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 92 percent of Americans say “there is a God.”

•83 percent agree that “this God answers prayers.”

• 80 percent of Americans say prayer is effective “no matter what a person believes in.”

• 62 percent say the National Day of Prayer “should publicize and promote Christian prayer.”

• 61 percent say prayer can be “effective” no matter how often one prays.

• 57 percent favor a National Day of Prayer, 5 percent oppose it.

• 38 percent say “it doesn’t matter either way.”

Source: A USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,049 adults conducted May 1 and 2.

Hullabaloo, helpful hints to jharper@washingtontimes.com. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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