“I think this day is a huge deal and very important for a nation like ours based on Judeo-Christian principles to really reflect,” says Father Cutie, author of “Dilemma: A Priest’s Struggle with Faith and Love." “This is not just a way of dealing with news on the economy and terrorism but to teach future generations long term to put their trust in a higher power, no matter what they consider that to mean.” [Editor's note: The original version misstated the name of Father Cutie's book.]
That comment makes some people – atheists and civil libertarians – uncomfortable with what they feel is the day’s foggy blend of patriotism and religion. For others, it seems to be a clear violation of America’s constitutional separation of church and state. But legal analysts say the proclamation passes legal muster because it does not force people to pray on this day.
“From a constitutional perspective, there is nothing infirm about a National Day of Prayer,” says Harold Krent, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. “Congress has not thereby established a religion, nor has it infringed anyone’s right to follow the dictates of his or her own religion.”
That said, the day could be applied in an unconstitutional manner, he says.