The 24th annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon began Sunday evening as a way to celebrate First Amendment freedoms, encourage Americans to read their Bibles and prepare for the National Day of Prayer later this week.
Pastor Michael Hall, who has co-directed the event with his wife, Terry Shaffer Hall, for the last 20 years, told The Christian Post that the Scripture is read non-stop "without commentary or comment" until every verse, from Genesis through the Book of Revelation, has been read aloud.
"We do it because we believe in the importance of the Bible," said Hall. "We believe it's God's inerrant word. We believe that it was the foundation of this country; the laws and the precepts and everything come from the Bible. So we read it as a devotion, but also to be able to stand on the West steps of the Capitol where the president is inaugurated, and to stand behind a Bible-shaped podium and read the Bible aloud is a freedom that few people have in other countries."
Christians visiting Washington, D.C., from other countries where there are fewer religious liberties are often amazed by the way the event's participants can express their faith and freely assemble, says Hall. Because people from around the world visit the area, the event's organizers have made 100 non-English translation Bibles available for them to read in their native languages.
Hall says between 500 and 600 Christian volunteers from all walks of life – legislators, lawyers, housewives, police officers, carpenters – will read at the event, which has been held annually since 1990. Children from Christian schools or who are homeschooled also participate, and most people read for between five and 15 minutes at a time.
"It makes a great impact on people, whether they believe in God or not," said Hall. "We have atheists who come by and say, 'We don't agree with you, but we applaud you exercising those rights.'"
The reading marathon began Sunday at 6 p.m. and will conclude around 1 p.m. on Thursday, which is also the National Day of Prayer. Hall says the Bible reading is "laying a scriptural foundation" for the prayer event.
NDOP was established in 1952 through a joint resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Harry S. Truman. This year's honorary chairman for the prayer event is Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., though some gay activists say he shouldn't be allowed to lead NDOP-related events in part because he teaches that homosexuality is a sin.