Fact check: Biden administration didn’t ‘reject’ National Day of Prayer
The claim: The Biden administration rejected the National Day of Prayer
Joe Biden is the second Catholic president in American history. He wears his son’s rosary beads and attends church regularly.
But on Facebook, a Republican political action committee makes it seem like the Biden White House is a godless place.
In an image published May 6, the Stars and Stripes Forever PAC wrote: “Biden administration rejects National Day of Prayer.”
“1st time in 70 years! Then refuses to acknowledge God in his proclamation!” says text in the image, which has more than 800 shares.
The post is one of many claims circulating on Facebook about the Biden administration’s participation in the National Day of Prayer on May 6. The observance day, which falls on the first Thursday in May, was designated by Congress in 1952 so that Americans “may turn to God in prayer and meditation.”
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Biden did leave the word “God” out of his statement about the National Day of Prayer, but Stars and Stripes Forever is wrong to say his administration rejected the day altogether. The president issued a proclamation and participated in a virtual event to celebrate. An evangelical leader was reportedly denied a permit to host an in-person event at the U.S. Capitol, but the U.S. Capitol Police — not the White House — handles those requests.
USA TODAY reached out to Stars and Stripes Forever for comment.
President recognized National Day of Prayer
Biden didn’t “reject” the National Day of Prayer. He celebrated it.
When asked to comment on Stars and Stripes Forever’s claim, the White House pointed to two pieces of evidence: a proclamation from Biden and a virtual event from Pray.com.
On May 5, Biden proclaimed the following day to be the National Day of Prayer, in accordance with federal law. Stars and Stripes Forever is correct in saying that Biden did not include the word “God” in his proclamation, which instead mentioned “Americans of many religions and belief systems.”
President Joe Biden speaks Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)
“Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one nation to meet this moment in history,” he wrote.
The second component of Biden’s participation in the National Day of Prayer was a virtual event hosted by Pray.com, a religious networking platform. The event, which was broadcast on TV, radio and Facebook, featured musical acts like the Christian band Hillsong Worship and public figures like former Vice President Mike Pence.
In a pre-recorded video, Biden spoke about his personal faith and the coronavirus pandemic.
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“It means the world to me to know that there are people across the country who include Jill and me in their prayers. And I hope you know that you and your families are in our prayers as well,” he said. “Today I am praying for the end of this great COVID crisis.”
Evangelical leader reportedly denied permit
There were no in-person events celebrating the National Day of Prayer at the U.S. Capitol like there have been in previous years. Capitol Police — not the White House — handles permits for events on the Capitol grounds.
In its Facebook post, Stars and Stripes Forever linked to an article that cited reporting from Christian Headlines, a website that writes about “what’s happening across the globe from a Christian worldview.” The article says an “evangelical leader” was denied a permit to hold a gathering at the U.S. Capitol in honor of the National Day of Prayer.
“After our permit was denied, for the first time in 70 years, there will be NO PUBLIC witness at the U.S. Capitol Building for the National Day Of Prayer!” Rev. Patrick Mahoney said in an April 26 tweet cited by Christian Headlines. “Brothers and sisters, free speech is in danger today in America.”
Mahoney is director of the Christian Defense Coalition, a national ministry. He hosted a Good Friday event outside the U.S. Capitol on April 2, the same day a man drove a car into a security barrier near the Capitol building and injured two police officers, one fatally.
Shots were fired and the building was locked down.
The U.S. Capitol building has been closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020. The area around the Capitol has operated under heightened security since the Jan. 6 insurrection.
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And Mahoney was wrong about this year’s lack of a Capitol event being unprecedented.
There was no official National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol building last year. Instead, the Trump White House hosted its own event in the Rose Garden. It’s unclear why Mahoney’s permit was denied this year.
USA TODAY reached out to the Capitol Police and Mahoney for comment.
Our rating: False
The claim that the Biden administration rejected the National Day of Prayer is FALSE, based on our research. Biden issued a proclamation and participated in a virtual event to observe the day. Mahoney was reportedly denied a permit to hold an event on Capitol grounds, but the Biden administration would not have made that decision. The Capitol building and the area around it have been restricted to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Our fact-check sources:
- The American Presidency Project, accessed May 12, Proclamation 2978—National Day of Prayer, 1952
- Associated Press, April 3, Capitol witness: ‘People are really shaken up’
- Christianity Daily, May 4, Biden Administration Won’t Allow National Day Of Prayer To Be Held At US Capitol This Year
- Christian Headlines, accessed May 12, About Us
- Christian Headlines, April 29, Pastor Denied Permit to Hold National Day of Prayer Event at the U.S. Capitol Building
- CrowdTangle, accessed May 7
- Delaware News Journal, Oct. 29, 2020, How Biden’s faith shapes his politics: Will it decide the election?
- Email from the White House, May 7
- Interview with Laura Trivers, May 11
- Los Angeles Business Journal, April 13, 2020, Pray.com Answers Call for the Digital Faithful
- PolitiFact, May 7, Fact-checking posts about the 2021 National Day of Prayer
- Pray.com, May 6, Pray.com’s National Day of Prayer 2021
- Pray.com, accessed May 12
- Prayers and Action, accessed May 12, Rev. Pat Mahoney
- Stars and Strips Forever PAC, May 6, Facebook post
- Rev. Patrick Mahoney, April 26, tweet
- Time magazine, May 5, 2016, How the National Day of Prayer Began
- United States Capitol Police, accessed May 12, Activities Requiring Permits
- United States Capitol Police, accessed May 12, Visiting Capitol Hill
- USA TODAY, April 2, Friday’s deadly attack at the US Capitol expected to reignite the debate over security fencing erected after riot
- USA TODAY, Feb. 4, Why Joe Biden’s faith-based ‘equity’ agenda is getting pushback from religious conservatives
- USA TODAY, April 2, 1 officer killed, another hospitalized after man drives car into barrier near US Capitol. Suspect dead.
- USA TODAY on YouTube, May 7, 2020,
- The White House, May 5, A Proclamation on National Day Of Prayer
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
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