The Ventura County Star covered the breakfast held on May 3 in Thousand Oaks as part of this year's National Day of Prayer. This faith-only event was hosted by the SE Ventura County YMCA. It also included invocations from religious leaders from Christian Non-Demoninational, Lutheran, Islamic and Jewish faiths. The keynote speaker was retired Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks, who spoke on the national theme of “One Nation Under God.”
Sheriff Brook’s presentation was disappointing but unsurprising. He actually said that he "did not understand why this phrase was controversial" in today’s America. Clearly he was not aware or interested in the polls that showed some 15% of Americans as being non-religious.
Then, while he went on to decry what he described as “an incessant wave” of people trying to “remove God from public life”, he pointedly failed to comment on the far larger “incessant wave” of efforts of religious groups trying to inject religious sentiments and beliefs into our government institutions and schools, as recently exemplified just this past year in both Port Hueneme and Camarillo where motions to have the unquestionably religious phrase “In God We Trust” prominently displayed in the council chambers were introduced in both city councils and actually adopted by one of them. Or in the recent success of aggressive religious groups fighting their way into our public elementary schools to proselytize to our children.
Brooks also seemed quite confused about our nation’s founding documents. He was liberal in his interpretation of the Declaration of Independence and focused on the phrase “Creator” to necessarily mean that the founders were trying to tie our nation's legitimacy to [Brooks'] god, entirely missing the point of the phrase to emphasize the inalienable human rights that all people have. Then, in a slight of speech that makes one wonder how well-versed Sheriff Brooks really was on US founding documents, he concludes that “There is no other Constitution in the world that gives God credit for giving men rights.”
Setting aside the fact that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are not the same document, it's a fact that the government of almost every country prior to the 20th century (and going all the way back at least to the Sumerians in the Early Bronze Age) claimed its legitimacy from God – we called them “monarchies”. The United States was unique in that our Constitution was the first national charter that explicitly left out any such claim. It is more than a little ingenuous for Sheriff Brooks to claim just the opposite, unless he truly just skipped out of American History in high school. But then he shouldn’t have considered himself qualified to speak about the Constitution at this or any other event.
Of course, people are free to hear and say whatever they want in this country as private individuals, and I'm sure that the religious crowd on hand wasn't all that picky about historical accuracy.
Brooks wrapped up his speech claiming that “Our land needs to be healed. It’s torn. It’s divided.” Apparently with no recognition or appreciation of the irony whatsoever that he was expressing such sentiments at an event specifically intended to divide Americans, promoting those who are religious and marginalizing those who aren't. (Or did the Star reporter just neglect to mention the reason-based speakers included at the event?)
I do love this year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer: “One Nation Under God.” Could there be any more damning evidence that this phrase is and is intended to be religious, and therefore unconstitutional in government ceremonies? After all, when’s the last time that the NDOP or any national religious rally offered a theme of “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”?