Local News

May 7, 2010 11:07 AM by Ariel Wesler

Hundreds turn out for local event honoring National Day of Prayer

Hundreds attended a local event in Santa Maria today in honor of the National Day of Prayer.

This is the city's 13th annual event. Folks from various religious backgrounds gather to pray for leaders at the local, state, and national level. It's one of many prayer sessions going on across america, but it's not without controversy. A U.S. District judge recently ruled the federally-recognized day unconstitutional.

More than 500 people packed the Park Plaza at the Santa Maria Fairpark--praying with a purpose. . .each in their own way.

"It's probably one of the biggest event we've had in a long time," said Jim Zimmer, who helped coordinate the local event.

Community leaders from spoke about the importance of prayer.

"People need something to have hope," said Santa Maria Resident Lowell Ledgewood.

Many needing it more now than ever before, but some believe the government should play no part in prayer.

Last week, a Wisconsin court ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, saying it violates separation of church and state by encouraging all citizens to pray.

"It's a voluntary thing. Nobody's forced to do it. The government is not mandating that we do it," said Cliff Schneider, a Santa Maria resident.

"It's opening an avenue where people can come as a community to express their beliefs," Ledgewood said.

But regardless of those beliefs, people prayed for members of the armed forces as well as leaders in education, medicine and business.

"People have the right to say what they want to or feel the way they want to, but in the end result, our nation truly is founded on a superior being, we call God," Zimmer said.

And while in God they trust, opponents are praying
the separation of church and state remains strong.

The Justice Department is appealing the ruling. Meanwhile, the Obama administration says the government is simply acknowledging the role of religion in American life.

Congress first established a National Day of Prayer in 1952. It was signed into law by President Truman.

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