Several Republican members of Congress and one of America’s most prominent religious leaders criticized President Obama on Capitol Hill today for a seeming brushoff during National Day of Prayer observances and for not referring to America as a “Judeo-Christian” nation in remarks last month in Turkey.
“We are disappointed at the lack of emphasis on prayer at the National Day of Prayer,” James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, told reporters at the Cannon House Office Building after a three-hour prayer observance.
“There are tens of millions of people praying across this country — 40,000 prayer events taking place today — and yet for the first time since 1993, the White House did not even send a representative of the Cabinet to the National Day of Prayer.
“Bill Clinton did during his eight years,” he continued. “It goes clear on back to Ronald Reagan making the first Thursday of May the National Day of Prayer, and Harry Truman is the one who first called for a National Day of Prayer but did not indicate which day it was. And in recent years, certainly there has been a White House presence but there’s not today.
“So far, the president has not even issued a proclamation,” Mr. Dobson said. “Or we have not received it. Is it going to come at the end of the day, when you can’t celebrate it or distribute it? I don’t know.”
In response, the White House press office sent out a photo of the president signing the proclamation in the Oval Office, flanked by Josh Dubois, head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It was not clear exactly when the proclamation was signed.
During the most recent Bush administration, Mr. Dobson and his wife, Shirley, who chairs the National Day of Prayer task force, had front-row seats during early morning White House National Day of Prayer services in the East Room.
There was no such formal ceremony this year.
“When the professional baseball team wins the World Series or when the Super Bowl is played or when college teams win the national championship, they are invited to the White House to celebrate,” Mr. Dobson said. “That’s important, apparently, but celebrating prayer, which is our heritage, which is what these people are talking about, is ignored. We are disappointed in that. We are not angry. In the service that just took place, there was nothing disrespectful said about our president.
“I do regret his lack of emphasis on the foundation of prayer on which this country is based,” Mr. Dobson said.
Several members of Congress appeared at the service to announce a relaunch of House Resolution 397, known as America’s Spiritual Heritage Resolution, and denounce Mr. Obama’s remarks last month that “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation, or a Muslim nation.”
“I would suggest that there were two questions needed to be asked and answered that he missed,” said Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican. “The first one was whether or not we ever were a Judeo-Christian nation, and the second one is if we were, when is that moment in time he can point to that we ceased to be so.”