The Deacon's Bench

A judge ruled on Thursday that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional — but President Obama plans to mark the occasion anyway.

From CBS News:

“It 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,” wrote Judge Barbara Crabb, who said the Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which bans the creation of a “law respecting an establishment of religion” in the Constitution.

Perhaps anticipating the anger that her ruling would create, she also noted there was no law preventing Americans from praying or organizing non-governmental days of prayer, and wrote this: “I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate. A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination.”

The National Day of Prayer was established by Congress in 1952, and in 1988 was set as the first Thursday in May. On that day last year, President Obama issued the traditional presidential proclamation, which opened with this line: “Throughout our Nation’s history, Americans have come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer.” …

… “The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon,” said House Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Lamar Smith. “What’s next? Declaring the federal holiday for Christmas unconstitutional?”

In a Tweet, the White House said that regardless of the ruling, the president still “intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer.” The decision does not ban the president from issuing a proclamation, the White House said.

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