Praying for Rain? Really, Secretary Vilsack?

July 19, 2012

 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters at the White House that he is praying for rain to end the drought parching 61 percent of the United States. “I get on my knees every day,” he said on June 18. “And I’m saying an extra prayer now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.”

The Obama Administration has been criticized by secular humanists for backpedaling on then-candidate Obama’s campaign pledge to reverse Bush-era policies that provide federal funding to religious charities that discriminate in hiring. But praying for rain? That’s not just government entangling itself with religion, that’s government wallowing in superstition.

This summer’s prolonged drought, the worst in a quarter-century, is devastating crops and parching livestock. It may bring sharply higher food prices later this year. But it sends the wrong message to distraught farmers when the Agriculture Secretary suggests that the best response is to pray. First, farmers need to keep doing whatever they can to mitigate the drought’s impact. Time spent praying is time they can’t devote to efforts to save their crops or livestock. Second, for a Cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution, or call attention to his own devotions, may violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion. Third and most important, prayer doesn’t work. Secular humanists think prayer doesn’t work because there’s nobody up there to answer those prayers. But if you want to do test the power of prayer yourself, consider this. Apparently Secretary Vilsack’s been praying for rain every day; how’s that working out?

Source: Peter Baker, "Drought Puts Food at Risk, U. S. Warns." New York Times, July 19, 2012, p. 17.