Judge Says No National Day Of Prayer
Special Report - April 19, 2010
A federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the 1952 federal statute that created a nationally recognized day for Americans to assemble and pray for the nation violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued her controversial ruling on April 15 in the ongoing lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) against the annual National Day of Prayer (NDP). The federal statute establishing the NDP was signed into law by President Truman in 1952, and later amended in 1988 to set aside the first Thursday of every May as the official day of the event. That statute reads: “The President shall set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”
In her ruling, District Judge Barbara Crabb concluded that the federal statute creating the NDP “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.” Judge Crabb emphasized that her ruling does not impact an individual’s right to pray, or the right of citizens to organize prayer events, or the ability of the president to issue prayer proclamations. “The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute…” she wrote.
According to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is defending the NDP Task Force in the lawsuit,“the court order does not demand that the 59th National Day of Prayer, which occurs on May 6, be canceled.” ADF sent a letter to mayors on April 1, encouraging them to continue to observe the NDP. ADF has created a website that contains more information on their efforts to defend the NDP at www.savethendop.org.
“It’s important to remember this about the National Day of Prayer: It’s America’s heritage, and this day belongs to Americans,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster in a press release. “The court should not have struck down this statute. ADF urges the Obama administration to appeal this terrible ruling that not only undermines the National Day of Prayer, but the underlying heritage and tradition of the American people which dates back to the nation’s founding.”
The 59th annual National Day of Prayer is scheduled for May 6 this year, and the theme is “For such a time as this,” based on Nahum 1:7, which reads: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, is the honorary chairman of the 2010 NDP.
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