by Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
Contact: Jeff Walton office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639 cell, e-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org
“Opposing FDR’s prayer at the WWII Memorial, if not outright misanthropic, is supercilious.”
-Mark Tooley, IRD President
Washington, D.C.—A coalition of liberal religious groups has authored a letter to U.S. lawmakers expressing concerns about a renewed initiative to add a prayer by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in the nation’s capital.
“Our religious diversity is one of our nation’s great strengths,” the coalition declared. “This bill, however, shows a lack of respect for this great diversity. It endorses the false notion that all veterans will be honored by a war memorial that includes a prayer that proponents characterize as reflecting our country’s ‘Judeo-Christian heritage and values.’”
Signers include several Jewish groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, a Hindu, a Humanist, and a mostly liberal Protestant group, plus the United Methodist Church’s Capitol Hill lobby. They insist that quoting the prayer on the National Mall will undermine “religious freedom” and “co-opt religion for political purposes, which harms the beliefs of everyone.”
FDR’s nonsectarian prayer read to listening millions on the radio on D-Day 70 years ago was a broad appeal for the Almighty’s protection of America’s sons. It also braced America for the losses that would follow.
IRD President Mark Tooley commented:
“Signers of this protest never quote from the ostensibly offending appeal from FDR. It would be clarifying if they had critiqued FDR’s words directly.
“There’s little in FDR’s prayer that would theologically offend almost any monotheist. Why would even polytheists or atheists be overly distressed by such a prayer, if in fact they too hoped for encouragement, solace, and victory for those forces attempting to liberate Europe from Nazi control and ‘to set free a suffering humanity?’
“FDR’s prayer asserts by direct implication the dignity of all people, made in God’s image, having souls that outlast the state, belonging to an Authority greater than the state, and meriting protection from the abuses of an unrestrained state, while receiving unmerited protection from the Almighty. This cosmology is reflected in all the great monuments on the National Mall and throughout the federal capital.
“The prayer is intrinsically part of what the WWII Memorial represents and is considerably less provocative than Abraham Lincoln’s Calvinist suggestion, inscribed on his nearby monument, that the Civil War was divine punishment for slavery.
“Contrary to the clueless appeal by this anti-prayer coalition, FDR’s prayer exemplifies the moral capital that is the bedrock of religious freedom for all.”