Under 36 U.S.C. § 119, the first Thursday in May is designated by Congress as the “National Day of Prayer. The statute directs the president to issue a proclamation to commemorate the day. “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”
A private organization, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, started by Focus on the Family, has for decades overseen the proclamations, and held religiously-segregated sectarian events to celebrate this law, pressuring governors and other public officials to issue their proclamations and often to attend religious events.
The 1952 law, passed at the behest of Rev. Billy Graham, has spawned countless state/church violations at the federal, state, county and local levels, entangling religion and government. This antiquated law should be repealed. As President Thomas Jefferson wrote, only civil powers have been given to presidents and none to direct the conscience of constituents.