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National Day of Prayer returns; Freedom From Religion Foundation sends mayor a letter

Ed Plumlee, South King Fire and Rescue assistant chief, sits at the head of a table and prays with a group of Federal Way Community Prayer Breakfast attendees Thursday. - Jacinda Howard, The Mirror
Ed Plumlee, South King Fire and Rescue assistant chief, sits at the head of a table and prays with a group of Federal Way Community Prayer Breakfast attendees Thursday.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

In an annual tradition, hundreds of individuals gathered at The Commons mall Thursday morning for the Federal Way Community Prayer Breakfast.

The breakfast is a celebration of National Day of Prayer. It is organized with the help of resident Bob "Coach" Roach. Participants convened to sing, pray and give thanks for all they have in their lives and all that is available in Federal Way.

This year, the group prayed for the community's doctors, police and firefighters, youth, business owners, leaders, pastors and residents. Community leaders took turns leading collective prayers from the stage before asking the crowd to pray separately at their own tables.

"We have so much to be thankful for," The Commons general manager Gary Martindale said.

Approximately 160 individuals showed up to participate in the two-hour event. Recognized city leaders and everyday folks mingled, sang and prayed together. Many in the crowd lifted their arms toward the sky and smiled.

Federal Way City Council member Jack Dovey urged the crowd to be good role models and lead an honest and moral life. Having faith in God will lead to fulfillment and good decisions, he said. Kochmar said she learned long ago to let go and let God guide her.

"That's what makes our community great, the people willing to step forward and get involved, the people praying for our community," Kochmar said in a private interview.

The morning wrapped up with a thank you to Roach for organizing the mass prayer.

"He has a heart for our children, a heart for our community," resident Bob Darrigan said.

Participants then joined hands to circle the Macy's courtyard, singing "Amazing Grace" and other hymns.

A chorus of "Praise God" echoed throughout the courtyard as the event came to an end.

Next year could bring a change of course.

Challenging prayer

The National Day of Prayer is an official resolution that was designated by the United States Congress in 1952. Christian evangelist Billy Graham introduced the idea. The resolution states: "The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals."

After more than five decades, the government-supported day of prayer is now in jeopardy. Wisconsin resident Annie Laurie Gaylor, who with her husband operates the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sued the Bush and the Obama administrations to try to block the presidents from making their annual proclamations urging Americans to join in the National Day of Prayer. Gaylor charges the resolution is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

On April 16, federal judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin agreed with Gaylor. Congress violated the First Amendment and the federal government is endorsing a religious practice when the U.S. president encourages the National Day of Prayer, according to Crabb.

Following the judge's ruling, Gaylor sent letters to communities of more than 30,000 across the nation. The letter urged local leaders to abandon their Day of Prayer events. Kochmar received one of the letters recently.

"I was pretty disheartened by it, but people are welcome to their own beliefs," she said.

President Obama's administration has appealed Crabb's ruling. National Day of Prayer events will continue until the appeals process has concluded.

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