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From Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The White House is planning a muted observance of Thursday’s National Day of Prayer, a response that has disappointed both Christian conservatives and an atheist group that wants to end the tradition.

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama would issue such a proclamation Thursday but not hold any public events with religious leaders as President George W. Bush did.

Obama’s decision drew a rebuke from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group that promotes prayer events around the country. The task force estimates 2 million Americans attended more than 40,000 events marking the day last year.

“We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration,” said task force chairwoman Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

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