For the past two weeks, “God” has been politicized, analyzed and hypothesized, as Democrats and Republicans have debated the Almighty’s role in the American political system. Now, just days after liberals were lambasted during the Democratic National Convention for stripping references to God and Jerusalem out of the party’s platform, President Barack Obama is catching heat for purportedly failing to mention the Almighty in his annual 9/11 proclamation.
But, is criticism from broadcast television and viral news reports warranted — or even accurate? In short: no. Here’s why.
On Monday, the White House released a statement, entitled, “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance,” which opens by discussing the horror that unfolded on September 11, 2001, noting that it left “pain that will never fade and scars our country will never forget.” Then, it goes on to discuss the important nature of oneness and selflessness that existed in the days following the terror attack.
“But as we mark the anniversary of September 11, we remember what remains the same: our character as a Nation, our faith in one another, and our legacy as a country strengthened by service and selflessness,” the presidential proclamation reads.
The document also mentions that each September 11 will be known as “Patriot Day” and “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” This year, Obama called for all flags to be at half-staff in honor of those Americans’ lives that were lost.
The main thrust of the proclamation is to encourage Americans to remember what unfolded and to urge citizens to “reclaim the abiding spirit of compassion by serving in their communities.” While there are beautiful themes that reflect upon volunteerism, helping one’s fellow man and other related elements, nowhere is God — or any related derivative — mentioned (however, the document does mention “faith-based organizations” as a potential place for people to serve).
Considering the fallout from the platform debacle and the ongoing debate surrounding faith and the administration’s views on the matter, the omission of a higher power might seem odd. But, a closer look at the facts is warranted. For starters, typically the federal government releases two 9/11-themed proclamations, one earlier in the month of September and the other closer to the tragedy’s anniversary.
While the aforementioned service proclamation was issued on September 10, 2012, a previous statement entitled, “National Days of Prayer and Remembrance,” was issued on September 7, 2012. In this first document, “God” and “prayer” are both mentioned twice. Critics fail to note that these proclamations are separate and that one focuses on faith, while the other is predicated upon service.
Obama has used similar language in past prayer proclamations. In 2009, his statement read, “We reflect upon the lessons drawn from our national tragedy, seek God’s guidance and wisdom, and, never forgetting the lost, commit to working in common cause with our friends and allies to create a safer and brighter world for current and future generations.”
Of course, some could argue that God should be present in both the service and prayer statements, but that may be splitting hairs. Even President George W. Bush, a man known for his overt Christian adherence, chose to leave faith mentions out of some of his service statements.
However, on some occasions he mentioned “God” or “prayer” in both. For instance, in 2005, in his “Patriot Day” announcement (akin to the service proclamations) Bush said, “We honor those who have lost their lives defending our freedom, and we pray that God comfort their families.”
In the end, though, the notion that Obama simply ignored prayer and God isn’t accurate. In fact, in his September 7 statement he said:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 9, 2012, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. I ask that the people of the United States honor and remember the victims of September 11, 2001, and their loved ones through prayer, contemplation, memorial services, the visiting of memorials, the ringing of bells, evening candlelight remembrance vigils, and other appropriate ceremonies and activities. I invite people around the world to participate in this commemoration.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also offered an official release marking the 11th anniversary of the tragedy. In a statement released this morning, he spoke out against the “evil” that descended upon America and, much like Obama, pledged that those lives lost would never be forgotten.
“On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world,” Romney said in the statement.
Incorrect reports about Obama’s failure to insert “God” and “prayer” come as Democrats are just recovering from their now-infamous platform omission. In the wake of the controversy, Romney has continued hammering home the fact that the nation needs a new president if we’re going to bring the nation back “under God.”