In The News

Defending The National Day of Prayer

American Center for Law and Justice

WASHINGTON, DC, April 15, 2010 | Kate Thompson ((202)225-3035)
Tags: General
A federal district court in Wisconsin has issued a decision declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.
A federal district court in Wisconsin has issued a decision declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. 

As you may recall, we represented 31 members of Congress in an amicus brief defending the National Day of Prayer in a federal lawsuit filed by the The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based organization, which challenged the constitutionality of a 1988 federal law giving the President the authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.

In a decision released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.  You can read a summary of that opinion here.
It 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.
This decision runs counter to well established legal precedent and we're confident that this flawed decision ultimately will be overturned.  We will be filing a brief representing members of Congress challenging this federal district court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  If the appeals court fails to reverse this decision, we're confident the Supreme Court will hear the case and ultimately determine that such 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.

This is the first step in what could be a lengthy legal process that ultimately puts this issue before the Supreme Court.  This issue could very well be decided by the next appointee to the high court.  An issue like this underscores the importance of why it's so critical for the nominee to answer direct questions about their judicial philosophy, how they view the role of judges, and their view of the rule of law.

In our amicus brief filed in this case, we noted that the country has a long history of recognizing a national day of prayer dating back to the late 1700's with the Continental Congress recommending that the states set apart a day for prayer and thanksgiving.  The brief stated that "the historical evidence establishing a National Day of Prayer as deeply embedded in the tradition and history of this country is indisputable."

We've produced a history of the National Day of Prayer.  You can read it here.
In our brief filed with the federal district court in Madison, Wisconsin, we represented 31 members of the 111th Congress – including Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, who chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus.

We represented the following U.S. Representatives who are serving in the 111th Congress:  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.

As we prepare for this expected appeal, we want you to join with us in defending the National Day of Prayer.  In addition to representing members of Congress in our amicus brief to be filed at the appeals court, we are representing the ACLJ's Committee to Protect the National Day of Prayer.