From the perspective of separation of church and state, this is fantastic news:
A federal district judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the 1988 law creating the annual observance is unconstitutional.
According to the Associated Press story, the order does not block any prayer day until after appeals in the case are exhausted; White House officials have confirmed that Obama still plans to recognize the observance on May 6, now in its 59th year.
The decision however cautioned that stopping the Day of Prayer should wait until all appeals are exhausted, so it’s no surprise Obama will go forward with it anyway. Rev. Lynn calls this “a big win for reliigious freedom” and he’s right; just look at the FAQ from the official web site:
Is the NDP exclusively a Christian event?
No. This government-proclaimed day is offered to all Americans, regardless of religion, to celebrate their faith through prayer. However, the efforts of the NDP Task Force are executed specifically in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs.
As the FAQ also discloses, the volunteer chairman of the NDP Task force is Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson of the evangelical political group Focus on the Family. The entire event is dictated by evangelical christian groups and “judeo-christian” beliefs (with “judeo” marginally represented).
Even if the NDP Task Force were more inclusive, performing outreach to muslim and jewish communities for participation, it still would amount to a celebration of prayer itself, which itself ignores the reality that faith is not universal. The essence of freedom of religion is not just which religion, it’s whether to have religion at all.
Those of us who do have faith find value in it precisely because our belief is innate and sincere; a world where faith is state-sponsored is one that strips the concept of faith of its meaning. As is the case in the middle east, for example.
Incidentally, to his credit, last year for the NDP President Obama did not hold a formal observance in the White House as did President Bush during his tenure. This caused him a lot of critique from evangeliical Christians, who also faulted Obama for “allowing” muslims to pray on Capitol Hill. Christian groups accused him of “canceling the NDP” and then “observing” muslim prayers instead. It’s astonishing to me how these things become grist for the mill for the muslim smear and Islamophobia time and again. All the more reason the NDP must be abolished outright.