In an event that showcased the administration’s close ties to the Religious Right, President George W. Bush used this year’s National Day of Prayer observance to reaffirm his advocacy of religion.
Speaking May 3 in the East Room of the White House before an audience that included cabinet officials, members of Congress and Religious Right leaders James and Shirley Dobson, Bush declared that prayer “makes us a strong nation.”
The president began his speech by acknowledging Shirley Dobson for her “leadership on this important day.” She heads the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group that organizes politically charged evangelical Christian prayer events on Capitol Hill and around the country.
Bush said Americans pray for a number of reasons, such as acknowledging “God’s sovereignty in our lives and our complete dependence on Him.” He concluded his remarks by saying that the “greatest gift we can offer anyone is the gift of our prayers, because our prayers have power beyond our imagining.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a statement criticizing the Religious Right’s use of the day to promote its agenda and the government’s role in the religious event.
“A government-sponsored day of religious activity was never a good idea,” said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. “Now, the event has been taken over by the Religious Right and turned into an exercise in political posturing and theological one-upmanship.”