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WJU holds sold-out National Day of Prayer despite controversy

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Two weeks after a federal court ruled the annual National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, a sold-out crowd of the faithful supported the William Jessup University Prayer Breakfast. Sheila Haut, spokeswoman for WJU said this year’s event at the faith-based university had to turn away about 75 people. “This year is our largest yet,” Haut said “Seven hundred and fifty have RSVP’d and we have had to turn people away because the event is sold out.” The annual prayer breakfast started in 2006 with 150 attending. This year Haut said a big draw was the keynote speaker, Nancy Alcorn who founded Mercy Ministries, a faith-based group that shelters and assists troubled women. South Placer County National Day of Prayer Breakfast Committee Chairman and Roseville City Councilman John Allard said the ruling, the recession and the need for prayer was what attendees were talking about. “In difficult times, first of all if people have issues with their government, they need to get more involved,” Allard said. “If people feel they are under increased pressure and stress and difficulties, they need to turn to their faith and ask for support and guidance.” Allard said the ruling wasn’t just against the Christian faith. “It is a ruling against the practice of prayer,” Allard said. “The National Day of Prayer is not a Christian thing. It impacts all faiths.” The lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer was brought in Wisconsin by a group of atheists and agnostics called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argued that it violated the separation of church and state. The Obama administration had argued that the National Day of Prayer was legal because it simply acknowledged the role of religion in the United States, according to the Associated Press. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in her ruling, “it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.” The National Day of Prayer was established by Congress in 1952, and in 1988 was set as the first Thursday in May. Allard said the ruling doesn’t change how he acts or thinks in his role as a government official. “My faith is a part of my life,” Allard said. “I am also a small business man, husband and father. We’ll see what happens with this court decision, in the mean time, I’ll continue working to make sure Placer County has a National Day of Prayer.“