(RNS) — Just in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day Friday, June 6, the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill to include a prayer plaque at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The prayer to be included on the plaque was delivered over the radio to millions of Americans by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the morning of the D-Day invasion, the Allied push into Europe that eventually led to the end of the conflict.
“O Lord, give us Faith,” the prayer reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes: “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”
The U.S. House will have to approve the bill, known as the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. But political pundits say there is little doubt the House will approve the measure since it passed a similar version of the bill last year.
Hailed by some religious and veterans groups, the Senate vote was another in a string of recent losses for secular activists who oppose the inclusion of a prayer on public property, such as the National Mall, the location of the memorial. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled sectarian prayers before government meetings are legal, and, at the state level, a challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance was unsuccessful.
Michael De Dora, director of public policy for the Center for Inquiry, a humanist organization and member of a coalition of religious and secular groups opposed to the prayer plaque, said the Senate vote was both a surprise and a disappointment.
“We thought the Senate would take the long view of this and see the policy implications of adding a Christian prayer to a World War II monument,” De Dora said. “But even more upsetting was the way it was passed. There was no floor debate, no official vote, no one went on the record regarding their position. No one was allowed to speak up and no one did speak up.”
That’s because the bill was passed by “unanimous consent,” a point of parliamentary procedure by which there is no vote, only a chance to register objections. No senator objected. Robert Abbey, former director of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the memorial, said in written testimony before the House when it was considering the bill in 2011 that he opposed the addition of any plaque to the existing monument. “It is not a judgment as to the merit of this new commemoration, simply that altering the Memorial in this way . . . will necessarily dilute this elegant memorial’s central message and its ability to clearly convey that message to move, educate, and inspire its many visitors,” Abbey said.