BRADENTON — A recent ruling by a Wisconsin federal judge that National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional is not yet law. If it were, Thursday’s local prayer event on government grounds may not have happened.
No one is sure if it was defiance over U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling or just a perception that prayer is needed in the public domain, but 250 people joined together for National Day of Prayer 2010 at the historic Manatee County Courthouse in downtown Bradenton.
Crabb’s ruling, which probably will be tested under appeal, wasn’t mentioned during the Bradenton event, where 10 speakers called on a higher power to help during troubled times in America.
Shirley Groover-Bryant, the mayor of Palmetto, prayed for government, Major General Richard Haynes prayed for the military and Anthony Murfin prayed for businesses.
The Rev. Joey Mimbs, president of the Manatee County Ministries Association, prayed for churches, and Marlene Campana of Marriage Builders, prayed for families. Dan Van der Kooy, the superintendent of Bradenton Christian School, prayed for education.
Douglas Poll of radio station LIFE 89.1, prayed for the media.
During his prayer, Haynes asked that American soldiers be protected from being taken by surprise and to give them peace and patience. He asked for the same thing for their families.
Murfin asked business owners rely on hope and truth in their dealings.
“Let your sovereign hand guide them in their decisions,” Murfin said.
The chance to pray outside in a large group was appealing to Lynn Passfield, who used her lunch hour to drive from Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
“I came for the corporate prayer,” said Passfield.
“America was built on God and prayer and if you take away that foundation you will have corruption,” Passfield said when asked about her view of Judge Crabb’s opinion.
There didn’t appear to be any obvious support for Crabb’s ruling in the audience.
Crabb’s opinion, which stated that government can no sooner encourage citizens to attend a synagogue, fast during Ramadan or practice magic than to allow a day of prayer, does not account that prayer is an American institution, grandfathered in even before law, said Bradenton’s Mollie Thomas, who also sacrificed her lunch hour to join the prayer event under a blazing sun.
“This country was built on Christian values, so to try and separate America from those values now would be asking for trouble,” Thomas said. “If you take God away from me, I am still alive physically, but I have died a spiritual death.”
Crabb’s ruling is confusing given that a bill creating a National Day of Prayer was passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman in April 1952, said Lexi Taylor of Manatee Religious Services.
“I don’t understand how she can make such a ruling considering Congress established National Day of Prayer.” Taylor said.
Unconstitutional or not, the event got off to a rousing start.
Bill Pierson of the Ministerial Fellowship of the Gulf Coast walked in front of the crowd and blew several blasts on a shofar, a ram’s horn used in Jewish religious ceremonies.
“In the Bible, it is mentioned that the shofar is used to call citizens to a spot where the Lord will come and fight on their side,” Pierson said later. “I find that symbolic of what we are doing on National Day of Prayer.”
Twelve members from Master’s Commission Bible College at Church on the Rock in Palmetto came to the prayer event after their teacher canceled class so they could attend.
“There are a lot of people hurting and a lot of people feeling lost,” said Nicole Molignano of Master’s Commission. “I think we need to be a light for them.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, Ext. 6686.