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Judge Declares National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 15, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

A year-old, incorrect story about Barack Obama “canceling” the National Day of Prayer made the rounds today. Meanwhile, in reality, Obama’s Justice Department was defending the Day of Prayer to a U.S. District Court that just ruled it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared section 119 of US Code 36—establishing an annual National Day of Prayer—to be unconstitutional. Her decision is available here. We certainly agree with everything she writes, and we’re sure there will be no major controversy over any of this.

The Freedom from Religion foundation brought the suit, claiming that the statute calling on the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Crabb found that the plaintiffs had the standing to challenge section 119 itself, but not presidential proclamations generally.

In Crabb’s reading of the case law, the government can encourage prayer when it has “a significant secular purpose,” but the National Day of Prayer has no point beyond encouraging everyone to pray.

Unfortunately, § 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. “When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 883 (O’Connor, J., concurring). Accordingly, I conclude that § 119 violates the establishment clause.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

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FFRF Sues Bush, Shirley Dobson and Gov. Doyle over National Day of Prayer Proclamations

Posted in FFRF by Skepdude on October 4, 2008

(MADISON, WIS.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit today broadly challenging the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer Proclamation by the President. In addition to suing Pres. George W. Bush, the lawsuit names his press secretary, Dana Perino, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, one of 50 governors to also issue prayer proclamations, and Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Public Law 100-307 sets the first Thursday in May as “National Day of Prayer.” The Foundation is seeking a declaration that the law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Mandated Prayer Proclamations by the President exhorting each citizen to pray constitutes an unabashed endorsement of religion,” contends the Foundation complaint, filed on behalf of the Foundation by attorney Richard L. Bolton of Boardman Law Firm, Madison, Wis.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION”