Interpretation of ‘National Day of Prayer’ Debated in Bowling Green

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BOWLING GREEN (WTOL) - Should Non-Christians be allowed to participate in Bowling Green’s National Day of Prayer event?

The debate started with a letter.

Wood County Commissioners sent a request to the event's organizer October 30. Kristel Asmus of the Dayspring Assembly of God has been coordinating Bowling Green’s National Day of Prayer event for over 20 years.

A line from that letter reading “Specifically, in recent years we have received comments from area residents who feel that the Wood County observance is less than inclusive of all faiths, thereby discouraging some people from participating in what is intended to be a very inclusive observance.”

County leaders asked her to make the event more inclusive, allowing people of other faiths to participate. However, Asmus said ‘no’ in a meeting with county commissioners on Tuesday.

"She specifically said 'if you are not a Christian, you will not pray at the event.' And we were taken aback by that,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said.

County leaders said that in today’s divisive times, it’s more important than ever for people to come together to pray. They say this attitude puts Bowling Green’s National Day of Prayer event at odds with many others around the nation.

Yet Asmus told WTOL that event does not exclude anyone. She said all are welcome to attend on the Wood County Courthouse steps each May. Yet she said only Christians will be allowed to actively participate, meaning to publicly speak and pray at the event.

Those who are not Christians can “pray quietly to themselves,” she said.

Many Bowling Green community members are frustrated with Asmus’ refusal to budge.

"It’s a bit of a slippery slope, because if you only invite part of the people to come pray because they’re “true Christians,” then the next time you’ll say only white people can come pray or only men come pray. And then pretty soon we’re back to where we were 2,000 years ago,” concerned Bowling Green neighbor Karen Wood said.

Wood County leaders said anyone is welcome to hold an event on courthouse grounds. It’s public property. They can’t ban anyone unless they are being disruptive or breaking the law.

However, county leaders said other groups may decide to hold their own National Day of Prayer events in addition on courthouse grounds next May.

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