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Court Dismisses Challenge to National Day of Prayer

WASHINGTON (RNS) The law calling for an annual National Day of Prayer imposes solely on the duties of the U.S. president, leaving private citizens no legal standing to challenge it, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday (April 14).

The unanimous decision overturns a 2010 lower court ruling that found the law unconstitutional. The ruling comes just weeks before many Christian groups plan to hold annual observances to mark the contested day on May 5.

“If anyone suffers injury … that person is the president, who is not complaining,” ruled a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The panel described the presidential proclamations that follow the law as requests, not commands of the public.


“Those who do not agree with a president’s statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove,” the court said.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which had argued that the proclamation violates the Constitution’s prohibition of an official “establishment” of religion, said it would seek a rehearing by the circuit court’s full panel of judges.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-founder, said she believed the appeals court would have ruled in her group’s favor if it had addressed the merits of the case rather than dismissing it over standing.

“Our challenge is so strong, our claim is so correct,” she said. “The First Amendment says, `Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.’ ‘No law’ should mean no law!”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hailed the ruling.

“The court is to be commended for rejecting even the idea of a federal lawsuit that demands this kind of religious expression be scrubbed from the public square,” he said.

– ADELLE M. BANKS, Religion News Service

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Gwyddion9

    Such a shame, really. It has nothing to do with the ‘nation’ and everything to do with being Christian. Dobson was the one put in charge of the event and he added rules for those who wanted to participate or prayer at the event. A National event would be something that includes all people, of all religions but that is not the way it is set up.
    Call it what is it, a Christian day of prayer but it has nothing to do with the Nation. That much is very obvious.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    It is a shame. Very divisive.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nothing wrong with prayer and it establishes no religion. No prayer makes a stronger statement forcing the religion of atheism on all people through the government.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    If the prayer mentions Jesus it does force it down to one religion. And no prayer breakfast doesn’t force anyone into anything. But politics being what they are these days, having such a thing forces most politicians into participating whether they want to or not, suggesting the particular religion is favored.

    One could hope they’d be mature enough to use a very generic prayer anyone could appreciate or at least tolerate being involved in. I’ll believe it when I hear about it having happened.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns, much to your dismay Jesus in not a bad word nor should His name be banned anywhere in the U.S. Just how to work out strategy for to include others may still have to be worked out but that should not exclude Jesus Christ anywhere in this great nation of ours.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    I’m not trying to ban anything in the US but to pray “in his name” or something such excludes a lot of people who could take part in a more generic prayer.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    sorry nnmns but no one should have to be forced by law to pray generically no matter what their religion is, that’s not tolerance.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    If it’s a National Day of Prayer for our Nation, then every leader of every Religion and Belief should be giving a prayer or words before breakfast in Wash.D.C. Nobody should be left out. If they are left out then it’s not a National Day of Prayer. Very simple to do it right.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mordred08

    Shame on you nnmns, trying to force everyone to be treated equally. You’d think America was a democracy, the way you talk.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Faith Defender

    nnmns –

    You wrote, and I agree with your statement, “One could hope they’d be mature enough to use a very generic prayer anyone could appreciate or at least tolerate being involved in.”

    Yet you are completely unable to show even the slightest bit of tolerance when it comes to Israel….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mordred08

    I’m not sure what Israel has to do with this, Faith Defender.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    FD, I’d tolerate Israel but I hate its actions. Lots of war crimes, and decades of land thefts aren’t my idea of the way a country should behave.

    Since you brought it up.

    But I’m glad you agree with me on the issue at hand.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Grumpy Old Person

    “but to pray “in [Jesus’s] name” or something such excludes a lot of people”

    Agreed. If it is truly a “NATIONAL” day of prayer, ,then ALL of the nation’s faith’s should be included, not just ck’s version of Christianity.

    “sorry nnmns but no one should have to be forced by law to pray generically no matter what their religion is, that’s not tolerance.”

    Not that YOU are known for being tolerant, ck, but the Dobson influence on this event DOES force people to pray to a specific deity. IOW, it is an ESTABLISHMENT of a specific religion in a government sponsored event.

    I am not presuming you will understand this, but it is observably UN-Constitutional.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sven

    The government should not be in the business of telling people, when, where and how to pray. The founders built a separation of church and state. It is a shame that the courts do not see value in keeping that division. Faith is much stronger when comes from within, not when it is mandated from the government, as it is in Iran, Libya, etc.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    grump your ignorance of prayer and faith has no bearing on how one should pray, we do not pray to please you grump, you are in no way Christ. lol

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Do you not know how condescending you come across Ck? GOM is not ignorant in any way about prayer and he said the same thing as I did, if it’s called The National Day of Prayer, everyone’s religion and belief should be represented. The Christians will pray in Jesus name, the Jews something else, the Buddist’s something else, etc., etc. It’s called respect for your fellow men. It’s not nice to laugh at someone elses sincere opinion.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    H, grump’s ignorance is probably purposeful in that it purposely ignores history to make his point, as your position also. If other religions want to participant in NDoP then they would want to out of their own power, to ask Christians to sponsor them is ridiculous.
    1. Congress prayed since day 1 (not to Bhudda, not to Mohammad, not to the sun or the moon or any of your gods)
    2. courts swore on bibles to God.
    3. prayer was held in schools and bibles were in every classroom
    This nation prayed to the God of the bible in times of war or strife. If you resent that history than that’s too bad because one cannot change history. It is true you can change the future but so far none of the changes to date has been for good or improvement. That is ignorance.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    No one is stopping anyone from praying—isn’t that something JC said you should do in private? Just asking. And if there is a prayer for the National Day of Prayer–(which I have wondered why it was started to begin with) then every religion on earth should be represented—Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and on and on. Don’t have to pray in the name of anyone. UU’s have had that figured out for a long time!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    the whole pray in private is an old card used by a particular group of people I guess you have the distinct honor of being a member of that group pagan, your reason for attempting to quote scripture is limited to use it against Christians. Jesus was a very public person and there are many correct examples of public prayer including Jesus.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    I know you’re upset about something ck, but I’m sorry your last comment is not understandable to me. PS and I have said if our country is having a National Day of Prayer, then it should be that all people enjoy their own religious prayers. If it makes Atheists unhappy I’m sorry, they can do something else that day with people who don’t recognize God. PS, I think Ronald R. brought this in, but I’m not sure. Of course, The National Day of Prayer wasn’t always on our calendars, not sure if it is now, is it ck? Well it isn’t on mine, I just looked. 😉

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Matthew 6-6, cknuck. You have said that the Bible is your guide. Only reminding you of what your book says. It says to go in a closet to pray. Yes, cknuck, I have the distinct honor of being a member of that group. BTW, how is it wrong to mention parts out of your favorite book to you to prove a point? Just askin’. Yes, JC prayed in public too, but apparently his advice was to do so in private. Could that be a contradiction in the infallible book?

    Thanks, Henrietta for the info. And I don’t see National Day of Prayer on my calendar either. Oh well.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    pagan He had advice on casting out demons through prayer too but every prayer is not about casting out demons, your argument is an old and trite strategy purposed by others with your agenda.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Sure, whatever, cknuck. The book is full of conflicting advice.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Grumpy Old Person

    I see I was correct to presume that ck would not understand.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    pagan it is conflicting to you and you are no authority you don’t know the book or the spirit of the book.

    grump it was not correct to presume, but that has little to do with my understanding. just because I disagree with you does not mean I don’t understand something (how small minded of you)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    No cknuck, there are others that find it conflicting in places too, and they use it to give them advise. When did I claim to be an expert on that book? I didn’t and don’t. I’ll leave that job up you. However I am familiar with the book, I do know it—inspite of what you think. As to it “spirit”? Thought that was my domain? :o)

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