An inane look at the National Day of Prayer

AN INANE LOOK AT THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER…. Yesterday was the official “National Day of Prayer,” held annually on the first Thursday in May by congressional decree. The “holiday,” such as it is, was a little more noticeable this year than most because of a recent federal court ruling that said the U.S. government shouldn’t be in the business of setting aside an official prayer day.

On Fox News last night, Bill O’Reilly and former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) discussed their belief that “America is a Christian nation.” Palin — who I’d swear is getting dumber — offered viewers this gem:

“[O]ur Constitution, of course, essentially acknowledging that our unalienable rights don’t come from man; they come from God. So this document is set up to protect us from a government that would ever infringe upon our rights to have freedom of religion and to be able to express our faith freely.”

First, “inalienable” isn’t in the Constitution; it’s in the Declaration of Independence. Second, the Constitution makes literally no references to our rights “coming from God.” In fact, the Constitution doesn’t mention God, Christianity, the Ten Commandments, or Scripture at all. Palin doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about.

Specifically defending the practice of the federal government encouraging Americans to engage in worship, Palin went on to argue:

“I think we should kind of keep this clean, keep it simple, go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant. They’re quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 Commandments. It’s pretty simple.”

Perhaps “simple” in the idiotic sense, but not in reality. For one thing, if we take Palin’s advice and honor what the Founding Fathers thought, we wouldn’t have a National Day of Prayer. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. Palin has this backwards because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

For another, Palin thinks the framers “created law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments.” In other words, she seems to think America is a Christian theocracy. Given that the Constitution — you know, the basis of our government and laws — is entirely secular, perhaps the conspicuously unintelligent half-term governor can explain the basis for her patently ridiculous nonsense.

It’s especially fascinating to think American law is based in any way on the Ten Commandments. Is it illegal in the United States to worship false gods? Or make graven images? Or to take the Lord’s name in vain? Are Americans legally required to honor a Sabbath? Or to honor our parents? Are we forbidden from wanting our neighbor’s stuff?

Put it this way: if Palin’s right, and the Founding Fathers based American law on the Ten Commandments, they were exceptionally bad at it.

Now, I realize constitutional history, the law, church-state separation, the Founding Fathers, and the Bible are not Sarah Palin’s areas of expertise. But when asked questions about something she knows nothing about, Palin shouldn’t pretend. It gives the impression that she’s an ignorant fool.

Here’s a radical suggestion for the former half-term governor: on subjects you know nothing about, quit making things up.

* Update: There’s some debate on the “inalienable” vs. “unalienable” point, so I’ve updated that paragraph. The larger point, of course, stands.