Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fed. Judge: National Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the government cannot call for religious action.

UPDATE 4/22/10: Justice Department will challenge WI judge decision

UPDATE 4/16/10:
White House says it will, just like last year, minimize Prayer Day

-- From "Federal judge rules Day of Prayer unconstitutional" by Todd Richmond, Associated Press 4/15/10

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. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state.

President Barack Obama's administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.

Government involvement in prayer is constitutional only as long as it does not call for religious action, which the prayer day does, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in her ruling.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Federal judge strikes down National Day of Prayer statute" by Dan Gilgoff, CNN 4/15/10

The injunction against the National Day of Prayer will not take effect until the defendants in the case, President Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, have exhausted their appeals, the decision said.

The White House press office referred a question about whether the administration would appeal the ruling to the Justice Department, where a press officer was unavailable for comment.

Conservative religious groups called on the White House to appeal the decision.

"The National Day of Prayer provides an opportunity for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith and does not promote any particular religion or form of religious observance," said Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

The event has been celebrated more ostentatiously by Republican than Democratic White Houses, partly because it has become aligned with religious conservatives. Since 1991, the National Day of Prayer Task Force has been led by Shirley Dobson, wife of conservative evangelical broadcaster and activist James Dobson.

Shirley Dobson criticized the Obama administration last year for forgoing the White House celebrations that marked the National Day of Prayer under President George W. Bush. But Obama did issue an official proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.