Anti-Prayer Day Billboards Target Evangelical Stronghold

Billboards challenging the National Day of Prayer are erected in Colorado Springs, the home of the prayer day's task force and other evangelical organizations.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation – the same group that filed a lawsuit resulting in the ruling that NDOP is unconstitutional – is behind the three billboards purposely scheduled to run during the National Day of Prayer on May 6. The signs went up last Thursday and will run through May 13.

On the billboards is the message, "God & Government a Dangerous Mix: Keep State & Church Separate."

Besides Freedom from Religion Foundation's billboards, the American Humanist Association has also tried to challenge NDOP. AHA issued an open invitation Wednesday to President Obama to celebrate the National Day of Reason. The humanist group said it purposely declared May 6 as the National Day of Reason to counter NDOP. Across the county, AHA claims, events will take place on Thursday to highlight the secular contributions to communities.

"Through such activities we hope to make it self-evident that you don't have to believe in God to be a good person," said Roy Speckhardt, executive direction of the AHA, in a statement.

Despite the challenges to the day of prayer, President Obama still issued a NDOP proclamation this year. Moreover, a large-scale prayer day event was held at the Capitol Thursday morning.

In recent weeks, there have been high levels of media attention directed at NDOP because of the controversy surrounding Franklin Graham, the co-honorary chair of the day's task force. Graham was disinvited from a Pentagon prayer day event because of comments he made about Islam that the army found inappropriate.

Further pressure was placed on congressional sponsors of the National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol to disinvite Graham. But lawmakers refused and Graham, as well as Shirley Dobson and her husband James Dobson, spoke at the Capitol event on Thursday.

Graham at the event said he came as a minister of Jesus Christ and declared that there is no hope for this nation or individuals except through Jesus Christ. He also called on America to repent and to receive God's forgiveness.

The National Day of Prayer was officially created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President Harry Truman. Since 1952, every president has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation. The Obama administration said it plans to appeal the court decision that ruled the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional.

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