Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has called for the reversal of a federal
court decision declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.
joined 28 other state attorneys general in filing a "friend-of-the-court" brief
with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the decision.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin ruled in April that Congress violated
the First Amendment to the Constitution when it established a designated National
Day of Prayer in 1988. Congress passed legislation that year designating the first
Thursday in May for the national observance of a Day of Prayer. Judge Crabb ruled
that such an observance amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
The suit was filed by the atheist group the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The brief filed by Koster and his peers argues that federal courts have repeatedly
acknowledged the country's religious heritage and the integral role of religion
in American public life. The brief points out that every President except one since
George Washington has issued a proclamation calling for national days of prayer
and thanksgiving to God.
Koster says there is nothing in the National Day of Prayer statute that compels
anyone to pray.
"However, the statute recognizes the importance of prayer in our
nation, as did Benjamin Franklin when the framers of the Constitution reached an
impasse, and he proposed that Congress adjourn for two days to seek divine guidance."
Koster says the federal court decision could have implications for state government
as well. "The attorneys general believe that the court's ruling...casts doubt on
state laws that provide for a day of prayer, and may call into question the traditional
individual state practice of issuing proclamations for special days of prayer during
times of difficulty or tragedy."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott led the effort to enlist his colleagues from
across the country in calling for the reversal of Judge Crabb's reckless ruling.
Abbott insists that the federal law does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause
of the First Amendment because "no citizen is required to participate in any religious
activity, and no government body or official is directed to conduct any religious
The Missouri Family Policy Council has also filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief
in this case along with 28 other family policy councils across the country. The
brief, spearheaded by the Liberty Institute of Texas, was also filed on behalf
of Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family Action, and the Family Research Council.
"Prayer is the underpinning of this country that makes it great," says Dr. Dobson,
whose wife, Shirley, has long served as the chair of the National Day of Prayer
observance. "Our nation has a rich history of Presidential proclamations for prayer
and thanksgiving, and we must not allow revisionist history to dilute that heritage
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says that the federal court
decision is the latest threat to religious liberty in the United States. "Since
the conception of our nation, Americans have enjoyed religious freedom and the right
to gather voluntarily for prayer. Judge Crabb's ruling squelches the religious freedom
our Founding Fathers chose to protect in the Constitution and advances an activist
agenda to hide our religious foundation."
The brief filed by the Missouri Family Policy Council argues that invalidating the
National Day of Prayer would be an act of hostility to religion, not the "accommodating
neutrality" required by the Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
in 1984 in the case of Lynch v. Donnelly that "the Constitution [does not] require
complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation,
not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any."
The National Day of Prayer Task Force has organized a petition drive urging President
Obama to instruct the Justice Department to mount a vigorous defense on behalf of
the National Day of Prayer in federal court. Leading legal advocates for religious
liberty have expressed concern that the legal defense mounted so far by the Obama
Administration has lacked intellectual rigor. You can sign the petition to President
Obama by following this link:
You can read more about the history of the National Day of Prayer by going to the
NDP website at this link: