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On National Day of Prayer, plenty of politics

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Where President George W. Bush welcomed evangelical National Day of Prayer enthusiasts to the White House, President Obama has taken a more aloof approach to the task force and to the Day of Prayer itself.

The White House lists the president's schedule for May 3 as including a lunch with the vice president, a meeting with senior aides, and some remarks at a Cinco de Mayo Reception in the Rose Garden. (An aside: Is that odd, to be celebrating Cinco de Mayo two days early? Just curious.)

The president's proclamation included an exhortation to pray for members of America's armed forces, and for "those who are sick, mourning, or without hope," and to "ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a Nation."

Mitt Romney, poised to become the Republican nominee for president, released his own statement of prayer. “Today I join with people of all faiths to express devotion and gratitude to the Lord, who has so richly blessed us," he said. His concluding phrase appeared to be a nod to the task force evangelicals, calling on "the Lord [to] keep us strong and free and we will remain one nation under God."

Groups including the the Freedom From Religion Foundation protest against the prayer day as an imposition of religion by government. A few days ago the American Humanist Association praised Rep. Pete Stark (D) of California for embracing the alternative concept of a National Day of Reason, on the same day as the National Day of Prayer.

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