Pa. Bill Would Recognize May 7th as “National Day of Prayer”

The Rep. says it is "completely nonsectarian." The ACLU says lawmakers should steer clear of such measures.

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A new bill in the state House would recognize May 7th as the “National Day of Prayer” in Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, a Berks County Democrat, introduced the measure.

“This annual event was not created for political reasons,” he said in a memorandum to lawmakers, “but exists to encourage all citizens to pray for our leaders, communities, families, and each other, and for national healing, reconciliation and unity.”

Should the state government be in the business of promoting prayer, though?

Andrew Hoover, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said it would “obviously be preferable” if lawmakers steered clear of proposals that appear to promote religious activity.

“When a legislative body is endorsing a practice that is so heavily associated with religion, it can certainly make people nervous,” he said. “For someone who’s a strict separationist, it probably raises some concerns.”

Caltagirone said his non-binding resolution, which would not impact state policy, is “completely nonsectarian.”

Three years ago, the state House unanimously passed a non-binding resolution that declared 2012 as the “Year of the Bible.” Critics said it violated the spirit of the separation of church and state, but a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by atheists challenging the measure.

Hoover said Caltagirone’s bill is at least “a lot less obnoxious” than the “Year of the Bible” proclamation.