More Prayer than Protests
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Conservatives Ignore Protests
Turn on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News, and you're bound to see coverage of recent tea party protests and pro-gun rallies. But click on your favorite Christian conservative group's blog or open its newsletter and you will more likely read about the National Day of Prayer than the nascent protest movement.
For conservative groups, the tea party is, at best, an movement that overlaps with their agenda. At worst, it is competition for the grassroots of the conservative movement in America. Either way, conservative groups responded to last week's events with noticeable silence.
Indeed, the only groups to discuss the protests of the past week were those who had the least in common with the movement.
Heidi Unruh of Evangelicals for Social Action said that watching the coverage of the protests made her react with anger, curiosity, and fear. Unruh hoped, however, that we could "get beyond knee-jerk reactions to a thoughtful, faith-full response."
This does not mean that Unruh found the arguments behind the tea party persuasive.
"If you think that lifting those in poverty or confronting lingering racial inequities should be a government priority, the good news is that the tea party movement has just delivered this administration a grade of 'A,'" said Unruh. "The bad news is that they want to overthrow the grading system."
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, was most concerned with second-amendment protests that occurred April 19, the anniversary of three historic events: the start of the Revolutionary War; the ATF conflict with the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; and the Oklahoma City bombing.
"It's time we make it clear that different views of the role of government are legitimate and essential to a robust democratic discourse; but the hateful and even violent rhetoric that has been employed in the past, and is now having a resurgence again, is dangerous and destructive and should be renounced and rejected by people of faith and good will across the political spectrum," said Wallis.
Conservatives also saw a threat in the events of last week, but it was from a court, not protesters. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argued that the National Day of Prayer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The National Day of Prayer has been a federally recognized date since 1952.
"Contrary to her opinion, this ruling does not promote freedom, it crushes it. Americans pray voluntarily. And exercising that right together, as a willing nation, is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended," said Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins. "To imply otherwise is to suggest that the Constitution is unconstitutional. Religion cannot be banned in America because it was never imposed—not by the Founding Fathers, and certainly not by the National Day of Prayer."
The FRC called for the impeachment of Crabb and for more prayer for the country.
Traditional Values Coalition chairman Louis Sheldon joined members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in opposing the ruling.
"Clearly, anyone with the simplest knowledge of American history would realize that the Christian religion was the basis of political liberty in the founding of our nation—and none of the Founding Fathers would have thought that a call for prayer was coercive or unconstitutional," said Sheldon.