WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Reps. John Kline and Michele Bachmann gathered with members of the bipartisan prayer caucus and religious leaders today to celebrate National Day of Prayer and express disappointment over a perceived lack of presidential interest in the day’s commemorative activities.
“Many of us who are in the bipartisan congressional prayer caucus believe that recognizing and underscoring the deep and rich religious history, frankly the Judeo-Christian history, with our founders is an important part of America and this place,” Kline said after the event.
“I was surprised that President Obama announced that he was not going to participate in National Day of Prayer. I think his predecessor would have been very surprised at that so I am a little disappointed,” Kline added.
President Truman began the National Day of Prayer 57 years ago. Eight years ago, President George W. Bush began holding public ceremonies to recognize the day. This year, Obama toned down the presidential participation by signing a proclamation in private and then continuing with other business.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that it was not because Obama thought that the event had become politicized and said that the president understands the role prayer plays.
But, religious leaders present at the prayer caucus ceremony on Thursday ventured to disagree.
“I also say, respectfully, that we are disappointed in the lack of emphasis on prayer on this National Day of Prayer,” said James Dobson, well-known evangelical author and radio host. “This is our history, and in recent years certainly, there has been a White House presence, but there is not today.”
In his proclamation, the president stated: “It is in that spirit of unity and reflection that we once again designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Let us remember those who came before us, and let us each give thanks for the courage and compassion shown by so many in this country and around the world … As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.”