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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 2, 2013 (Heritage Foundation) – Millions of people of faith in America will participate today in the 62nd annual National Day of Prayer.

Although the National Day of Prayer was not established by congressional legislation until 1952 under President Harry Truman, days of prayer have been regularly called for since the 1775 Continental Congress. Religious belief and practice form the foundation of a healthy civil society and should be safeguarded in law and culture.


Religion still plays a significant role in the lives of a vast majority of Americans. According to Heritage’s, more than half of adults pray at least daily, and almost 90 percent of American adults believe in God or some higher power.

When that belief translates to action—as it often does—the benefits can be significant for civil society.

Individuals who regularly attend worship services and report a high level of religious commitment are more likely to volunteer and give to charity. Churches and houses of worship play a vital role in society, preventing dependence on the government, strengthening the family and community, and promoting a flourishing society.

Marital and family relationships are also greatly improved by religious practice. Couples who regularly attend worship services tend to have happier and more stable marriages. They invest more in their relationships and are less likely to divorce than non-religious couples. Mothers who are religious when their children are young tend to have better relationships with their children, and religious fathers are more likely to be proactively involved in their children’s lives, a key factor in a child’s academic, emotional, and social success.

Likewise, young people who attend church regularly and value religion are more likely to marry and less likely than their peers to cohabit or have premarital sex. Heritage has previously explained that “after parental marriage, religious practice is probably the most significant factor related to reduced teen sexual activity.”

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Despite the positive effects of religious belief, recent government mandates and actions are increasingly antagonistic toward the role of faith in the public square. The Obama Administration’s anti-conscience mandate continues to threaten the religious liberty of many individuals, family business owners, and religious social service providers to act and work in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

Policymakers and national leaders should recognize the profoundly important role of religious belief and practice for sustaining families, increasing well-being, and promoting a robust civil society. Protecting the freedom of individuals and organizations to live out their faith in public ways—not trampling religious liberty through coercive government dictates—can ensure that more people enjoy the benefits of religious practice. Today we should celebrate that freedom as the nation joins together in prayer.

This article originally appeared on the Heritage Foundation and is reprinted with permission.