Louisiana’s legislatures recently proposed making Sunday June 20th a statewide day of prayer to ask for God’s help in stopping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My take is that while this may have been a well-intentioned measure, it is at best unnecessary and at worst unconstitutional.
The resolution does not endorse a specific religion, and calls upon people of all religions to engage in “unified, intercessory prayer.” However, establishing a day of prayer ties the government to the private spiritual lives of its citizens. Government’s influence on religion, like religion’s influence on government, weakens both institutions, instead of strengthening them. I don’t think one would be going out on a limb by suggesting that people across the gulf coast region have been seeking comfort and relief through prayer since the start of this tragedy – and they have done so without needing the government to tell them when to do it.