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Day of dueling prayers this year in DuPage
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/30/2008 12:11 AM

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National Day of Prayer services are tearing asunder Christian religious ties in DuPage County.

Local prayer services on the day have spawned heated religious debate because of comments made by guest speakers. This year promises to be even more intense as another potentially inflammatory Christian speaker will clash Thursday with a new "unofficial" service in Naperville.

Organizers are billing the Naperville service as more welcoming than the all-Christian, conservative messages of the other services.

Meanwhile, the official prayer day event, to be held near Wheaton, will feature Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. The organization lobbies against gay marriage, abortion and pornography, among other issues.

Wright also was given the nightly "Worst Person in the World" label on the Jan. 2, 2008, edition of Countdown by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

Wright said advocates of comprehensive sex education, including birth control, do it to profit from teens aborting unintended pregnancies.

The Rev. Greg Schneck-Skiba of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Naperville said the service at his church will offer "an alternative for non-Christians to join with Christians and not feel like second-class believers."

Jews, Muslims and people with no preferred faith tradition are invited to attend, and there will be no highlighted guest speaker.

"We live in a time of religious intolerance by various groups who believe they have the only truth about God and what God desires," Schneck-Skiba said. "This is a contradiction of the American ideals of religious freedoms."

Schneck-Skiba said he believes too many of the National Day of Prayer events in DuPage County have carried messages designed to make people uncomfortable with their own beliefs.

Last year, the official day of prayer event featured Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth who condemned homosexuality as an "abomination."

In 2006, the same event featured a prayer by Sandy Rios, a local radio talk-show host, that labeled Allah a "God of vengeance."

Diane Tillery, one of the organizers of the event that will feature Wright, said her prayer service is specifically geared for people who share the Judeo-Christian principles Wright and previous speakers have expounded. But the day itself does not exclude people of other faiths in any way. Instead, people with other beliefs should have their own services.

"I would say to Rev. Schneck-Skiba, 'Good for you, deciding to begin your own expression of the National Day of Prayer for our nation,'" Tillery said. "Our country needs everyone's prayers."

Other National Day of Prayer events

• An appearance by the Rev. Erwin Lutzer at Benedictine College in Lisle. Tickets required. (630) 829-6195.

• A breakfast sponsored by the Kiwanis Clubs of Lombard and Villa Park at the Lombard Log Cabin. Tickets required. (630) 709-7354.

• A candlelight service at the gazebo in downtown Warrenville sponsored by the Warrenville Persons in Ministry. (630) 334-1347.

• An interactive service at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Carol Stream. (630) 483-3143, ext. 120.

• A prayer walk and prayer tents in various places in Aurora. (630) 859-8010.

• A prayer breakfast at Glendale Lakes Golf Club in Glendale Heights featuring Schaumburg resident Jeff Miller, a survivor of a 1989 plane crash in Iowa that killed 113 people. (630) 856-7525.