News & Politics

It's True, Joe Biden Was the First President to Cut God Out of the National Day of Prayer

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It’s not just your imagination: Today’s Democrats are not just hostile to religious freedom or conservative Christians, they’re increasingly hostile to the mere mention of God in public addresses. Last week, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to omit the name of God from his written proclamation on the National Day of Prayer. Even Barack Obama — who famously omitted any mention of Jesus Christ from his message about the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas — didn’t do this.

Biden’s proclamation extols the “healing balm of prayer,” noting that “[p]rayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements — including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans.” Yet not once does the proclamation use the word “God,” or even the rendering “G-d.”

The closest Biden came to referencing God involved a quote from John Lewis, who said that “human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.” This use of “divine” could refer to any kind of supernatural realm or personage, however.

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The proclamation ended with the routine statement that Biden signed the proclamation on “this fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth,” but that represents a mere calendar note, not a true reference to the Creator of the universe.

In a video statement to mark the National Day of Prayer, Biden mentioned God at least twice.

“By the grace of God and the extraordinary work of researches and scientists, we have vaccines that have proven to be safe and effective,” the president said. “Thank you for your prayers and may God bless you and all those you love and are concerned about on this day and every day.”

Biden’s use of “God” in the video statement does not erase the fact that he omitted God from his written statement, however. Even Snopes confirmed that Biden was the first president not to mention the Creator by name in his address.

Presidents have issued proclamations about prayer since the late 1700s, and President Harry Truman signed a law proclaiming a national day of prayer in 1952. Since then, Truman and Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump issued National Day of Prayer proclamations with the word “God.”

Snopes could find only two examples of a president not mentioning God in a proclamation — Nixon’s call for a “Prayer for Peace” on Memorial Day 1970 and James Madison’s recommendation for prayer in 1813. Yet Nixon’s two National Day of Prayer proclamations each mentioned God by name, and Madison’s proclamation used other terms for God such as “Almighty Power,” “Great Parent,” and “Sovereign of the Universe.”

While former President Obama repeatedly attacked religious freedom and omitted any reference to the birth of Jesus Christ from a 2015 Christmas message, he did mention God by name in his National Day of Prayer proclamations.

Yet in recent years, the Democrats have grown more hostile to religious expression. Two caucus meetings at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) last year cut “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance — the Muslim Caucus meeting and the LGBT Caucus meeting. While debating the Orwellian Equality Act — which explicitly undermines the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) declared that “what any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress.”

Biden himself, in a notorious gaffe, cited the Declaration of Independence, saying, “all men and women created by… you know, the thing.” It remains unclear whether God slipped Biden’s mind or if the candidate intentionally decided not to mention the One who did the creating.

While Christians should be wary about taking America’s civic religion too far, the Declaration of Independence grounds American independence squarely on the Natural Law tradition of rights given by God. The Declaration mentions God four times, referencing God’s laws, His creation of human beings — which endows “all men” “with certain unalienable Rights” — His judgment over the nations, and His divine providence.

Recommended: Four Times the Declaration of Independence Mentions God, and Why It Matters

Biden’s decision to cut God out of his National Day of Prayer declaration represents a subtle rebuke to this tradition and a nod to the Democratic Party’s increasingly secular bent.