Pennsylvania to Observe 'National Fast Day' Tuesday

The state of Pennsylvania will be observing a "National Fast Day" in accordance with a resolution passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Meant to commemorate the 150-year anniversary of a proclamation made by President Abraham Lincoln, the fast day approved via the passage of House Resolution 17 will occur on Tuesday.

Passed with a vote of 160 yeas to 35 nays, HR 17 extensively quotes from the Lincoln proclamation, which was issued during the American Civil War.

"… it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord," reads the Lincoln proclamation as quoted in HR 17.

"I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion."

Jeff Buchanan, executive director for Life Church of Allentown, told The Christian Post that he felt the Pennsylvania House's resolution was "worthy of support."

"We encourage the expression of religious liberties guaranteed by our constitution. We support the rights of all individuals to exercise those liberties should they so choose," said Buchanan. "A national day of prayer and fasting where Christian communities are united together in purpose is an effort worthy of support."

Buchanan also told CP that his congregation "is committed to the regular observance of prayer and fasting as it applies to all facets of life."

"This includes praying for our president, Congress, governmental officials, and our nation as a whole. We encourage all of our members to exercise their freedom to participate in all national efforts of Christian expression as they so choose," he said.

While based off of the words of a much admired former president, Pennsylvania's recently passed and soon to be observed resolution stirred the ire of church-state watchdog groups.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told The Christian Post that HR 17 and resolutions similar "send the mistaken message that government officials have some sort of official role in religious matters."

"In our view, it's not the job of the government to call on people to pray or to advocate for religious activities like fasting. Americans are capable of making decisions about theology on their own without the help of the government," said Lynn.

"As an ordained minister, I personally see this as an intrusion into matters better left to the clergy. This may seem harmless to some people, but if you think about it for a moment, it sets a bad precedent."

When asked by CP if President Lincoln was a violator of church-state separation by issuing the original proclamation, Lynn responded that Lincoln's action was a sign of his time period.

"Most presidents have issued proclamations calling for prayer, so it's not surprising that Lincoln did so. The Civil War was a very traumatic experience for the nation, and some people responded to that by urging the government to more closely identify with religion," said Lynn.

"But we must remember that not all presidents have endorsed these proclamations," added Lynn, pointing to presidents like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson who specifically refused to issue any proclamations for prayer or fasting.

Pennsylvania's National Fast Day observance comes as religious communities across the country prepare for the National Day of Prayer, scheduled for Thursday, May 2.