Obama snubs evangelical Day of Prayer, but Pawlenty embraces it

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President Obama has declined to host a group of evangelical Christians to mark today’s National Day of Prayer, but Minnesota’s chief executive, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, will once again participate in the exclusive religious event and his office has endorsed the event.

Last year, the Minnesota Independent reported that not a single speaker at the Day of Prayer event at the Minnesota Capitol was from a religion outside the evangelical Christian spectrum. Among the nearly two dozen speakers, all were pastors of churches or politicians that identified specifically as evangelical.

This year appears to be the same. The Midwest Chaplains, the group coordinating the event, is strongly evangelical, and Gov. Pawlenty and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, both evangelicals, will be headlining the event, according to their office’s public events schedule.

A request for a copy of the event lineup was not honored.

Originally created by an act of Congress, the Day of Prayer was implemented to move people of all faiths to pray for the well-being of the country. But over the last decade, Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, has been coordinating evangelicals-only events across the country.

The Minnesota event is endorsed by Shirley Dobson’s National Day of Prayer campaign, and coordinators must take a pledge to uphold evangelical ideals.

The pledge used to ask coordinators to sign on to this message: “I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name.”

This exclusive Christian event within a government-sanctioned day of prayer isn’t sitting well with non-evangelicals. President Obama’s declined invitation by evangelicals to host a prayer ceremony at the White House prompted praise from advocates.

“During the Bush years, the Dobsons and other Religious Right leaders were given special access to the White House. That seems to have come to an end, and I’m glad,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Congress should never have mandated a National Day of Prayer,” continued Lynn. “Americans don’t need the government telling them when to pray and what to pray for. But if the federal government is going to set aside a prayer day, it should recognize the broad diversity of faiths, not just fundamentalist Christians.”

A group of Minnesotans are not happy with the flavor of the Day of Prayer ceremonies at the Capitol and are countering it with a Day of Reason “to remind our government of who they represent” — everyone.

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