The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based organization, to challenge the constitutionality of the 1988 federal law which gives the president the authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer. See LifeSite News.
U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb stated in her decision:
The day of prayer "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."
As this case shows, “it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority.” Letter from James Madison to R. Adams (1832), quoted in McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 876. The duty of this court is to review the relevant case law and determine how it applies in a particular case. Although the law does not always point in the same direction on matters related to the establishment clause, my review of that law requires a conclusion that 36 U.S.C. § 119 is unconstitutional.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) represented 31 members of Congress in an amicus brief filed in the case, and is confident that the decision will be overturned. Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, stated that the ACLJ would be appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Sekulow also said that the ACLJ is prepared to bring the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if the appeals court refuses to overturn the district court decision.
Sekulow said "[i]t is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ.
"This decision runs counter to well established legal precedent and we're confident that this flawed decision ultimately will be overturned.” Sekulow believes that "proclamations and observances like the National Day of Prayer not only reflect our nation's rich history, but are indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
Indeed, this country has had a long history of recognizing a national day of prayer dating back to the 1700's, with the Continental Congress recommending that states set aside a day for thanksgiving and prayer.
A list of the U.S. Representatives who were represented by the ACLJ in the amicus brief is found below:
J. Randy Forbes, Robert B. Aderholt, Michele Bachmann, Roscoe G. Bartlett, John A. Boehner, John Boozman, Eric Cantor, K. Michael Conaway, Mary Fallin, Virginia Foxx, Trent Franks, Scott Garrett, Louie Gohmert, Wally Herger, Peter Hoekstra, Walter B. Jones, Jim Jordan, Doug Lamborn, Thaddeus G. McCotter, Patrick T. McHenry, Mike McIntyre, Jeff Miller, Sue Wilkins Myrick, Randy Neugebauer, Pete Olson, Mike Pence, Joseph R. Pitts, Heath Shuler, Adrian Smith, Lamar Smith, and Joe Wilson.