Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to National Day of Prayer
A federal appeals court has struck down a lower court ruling which had declared that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected a lawsuit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, ruling that the atheist group had no legal standing in the matter.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation had challenged Congressional action establishing the first Thursday in May as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving to God. The Foundation claimed that the national prayer observance amounted to an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb agreed with the Foundation, ruling that the designation of a National Day of Prayer serves no secular purpose.
The three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit overturned Crabb's decision, concluding that the plaintiffs had no legal basis for filing the lawsuit. The court stated in its opinion: "The psychological consequence produced by observation of conduct with which one disagrees is not an injury for the purpose of standing...All [the plaintiffs] have is disagreement with the President's action. But unless all limits on standing are to be abandoned, a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury in fact."
The appeals court panel observed that the Presidential proclamation of a National Day of Prayer does not compel any person to pray "any more than a person would be obliged to hand over his money if the President asked all citizens to support the Red Cross or other charities."
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, expressed support for the decision. "The Court is to be commended for rejecting the idea that...religious
expression is to be scrubbed from the public square. Americans enjoy religious freedom...because our Founders recognized that religious liberty is a gift of God, not the government, and because of the sacrifices of countless men and women to defend it. "
"This ruling send a message to Judge Barbara Crabb and any other activist judge who would rewrite the Constitution to advance a hostile treatment of religion in public life," Perkins added. "Americans have the right to pray together as a nation. That is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended."
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, described the ruling as "a victory for our nation's heritage and history." "We're extremely pleased that the appeals court determined that while some may disagree with a presidential proclamation, they do not have the right to silence speech they don't agree with."
The Missouri Family Policy Council is continuing to press efforts here in our own state to safeguard the religious freedoms of Missouri citizens. Legislators are considering a proposed constitutional amendment which would protect the right of schoolchildren to pray on a voluntary basis in the public schools. The joint resolution would also assure that all Missouri citizens retain the freedom to pray and acknowledge God in public settings and on public property. It would also guarantee the privilege of government bodies to offer invocations before public meetings and proceedings.
The House bill, House Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by Representative Mike McGhee, has been approved by the full House and will be heard in the Senate General Laws Committee this week. The Senate bill, Senate Joint Resolution 16, sponsored by Senator Jack Goodman, has been already endorsed by the General Laws Committee, and has been placed on the Senate calendar for debate.
Congressman Todd Akin, a student of American patriotic history, notes that there have been 135 national calls to prayer, fasting, and Thanksgiving by Presidents of the United States since the first one was issued by President Washington in 1789. Congress first enacted a law establishing a National Day of Prayer in 1952. President Reagan signed the law passed by Congress in 1988 designating the first Thursday in May for the formal annual observance.
This year's National Day of Prayer, the 60th annual observance, will be held on May 5th. The theme chosen by the National Day of Prayer Task Force is "A Mighty Fortress is our God." The theme is based on the Scripture found in Psalm 91:2: "I will say to the Lord He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I trust." Joni Eareckson Tada is the honorary chairwoman of this year's event.
Shirley Dobson, Chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, urges the nation to look to God for refuge and strength during this time of national challenge and discord. "Prayer is an indispensable part of our heritage, and as citizens, we must remain faithful in our commitment to intercede for our nation during this pivotal and challenging time."
You can read more about the National Day of Prayer by visiting their website at this link:
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