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President Bush Promotes Dobson Prayer Event At White House Ceremony.

President George W. Bush used the National Day of Prayer to help promote the Religious Right agenda and further cement his ties with religious conservatives, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"George W. Bush is president of all the people," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "He should not use his office to promote a narrow religious agenda. He holds the office of president, not national pastor."

In 1952 Congress passed a federal law requiring an annual observance of a national day of prayer. In 1988, at the behest of the Religious Right, the date of the event was officially set by Congress as the first Thursday in May.

Since then, control of the observance, intended to be broadly ecumenical, has been effectively taken over by the Religious Right. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, a nonprofit private group headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Religious Right broadcaster James Dobson, coordinates virtually all of the prayer day events in Washington, D.C., and around the country. The task force budget now tops $1 million, which is raised primarily through donations from foundations and individuals and the sale of NDP merchandise.

The NDP Task Force operates from the headquarters of Dobson's Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo. As Expected, the Task Force's events reflect a fundamentalist Christian view of the world and advance the claim that America was founded to be a "Christian nation."

Despite this narrow religious approach, President Bush actively assisted the Dobson crusade. In a May 2 Focus on the Family fax newsletter, White House liaison Tim Goeglin announced that NDP events in Washington, D.C., would be hosted by Bush. In his April 30 NDP proclamation Bush adopted the Task Force theme of "One Nation Under God" as his own. He even quoted from a special prayer written for the Task Force by evangelist Billy Graham.

At a White House ceremony, Shirley Dobson presented Bush with a cowboy-themed religious painting. Bush praised her work and called on Americans to join the prayer day observance.

In addition to the Dobsons, the other 125 guests at the White House event included TV preacher Jerry Falwell and Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt. Other Southern Baptist leaders attending the event included Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas who helped engineer the fundamentalist takeover of the denomination.

Americans United's Lynn said the situation is unfortunate. "Americans don't need the president and Congress telling us when to pray," he said. "And we certainly don't need the White House using its bully pulpit to advance the Religious Right's radical game plan."

In other news about the Bush administration:

* TV preacher Pat Robertson is celebrating the Religious Right's new access to the White House. Speaking on his "700 Club" program May 2, Robertson remarked, "It's been nearly a decade since conservatives had control of the White House, and now that they have it back, the conservative operatives who have been hanging around Washington for a long time are making the most of their opportunity."

* Jay Sekulow, head of Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, is excited about recent changes at the Justice Department. Lauding Attorney General John Ashcroft on his radio program March 8, Sekulow claimed that the department is stacked with "friends of ours." He added, "These are our people that we've worked with. In fact.... much of our Supreme Court team, our outside team for the Supreme Court cases, are now inside the Justice Department. And that's a, that's a good thing to know. We're excited about that. Very competent lawyers have been put in place. And look, this is a new day. We need to seize the moment here."

* James Dobson's Focus on the Family (FOF) has come up with a novel theory as to why so many political leaders seem to fall prey to sex scandals: Women on Capitol Hill dress too provocatively. FOF's May 2 Citizen Issues Alert quoted Sheila Moloney, a staffer at the Republican Study Committee, who said, "Some of the outfits that women on Capitol Hill wear make them look like cocktail waitresses, and a lot of women throw themselves at congressmen, for various reasons."
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Title Annotation:James and Shirley Dobson; George W. Bush
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Previous Article:`Faith Czar' Calls For Government Funds To Repair Old Churches.
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