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Gov. Lee Defends Day Of Prayer, Saying It Provides An Opportunity For Unity

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee is defending his decision to declare Oct. 10 a "day of prayer, humility and fasting."

The announcement of the declaration has been received with mixed emotions, and some groups are pushing back on it.

Lee says the idea of a day of prayer is to create unity across the state. 


“Providing an opportunity for people to come together and to unite around asking for blessing for our state and for the people of this state is valuable," Lee told reporters. "It’s historically something that presidents and governors have done through history."

The reality is that Lee is not the first governor to declare such observance.

This past year, governors in Iowa and South Dakota have signed proclamations making similar statewide declarations. On the national level, a National Day of Prayer has been celebrated since 1952, when President Harry Truman signed the celebration into law. 

But for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the day creates more divisions as it could exclude those who don’t pray or believe in God.

Maggie Garrett, the organization's vice president of public policy, suggested in a statement to WPLN that the declaration could violate religious freedom.

"Our government officials should not be telling people whether, when or how to pray — that’s a fundamental violation of religious freedom," Garrett said. "Proclamations like this send a message that only people who share the governor’s religious beliefs are welcome in the state."

The organization also calls the decision "insensitive," since it comes the day after Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday of repentance and fasting.

Lee responds to those objections by saying his day of prayer is voluntary, and those who don’t think it’s appropriate, don’t have to participate.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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