A District Court Judge in Madison, Wisconsin, has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. In response to a suit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the observance, which dates back to 1952, “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.”
I have written several times before about the National Day of Prayer. At the very least, any observance of the National Day of Prayer needs to include a recognition of the diverse religious (and non-religious) groups that make up our communities. The Committee for a National Day of Prayer has consistently made it clear that they are only willing to cooperate not just with Christians, but with Christians of a particular theological persuasion. Insofar as this kind of support is endorsed and participated in by governmental agencies, I’d agree that the Day is unconstitutional.
“One News Now,” the website sponsored by the American Family News Network (think , invites its readers to participate in an online “poll” in response to the decision. The options offered are:
What’s your reaction to a judge’s ruling that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment prohibition on gov’t endorsement of religion?
- No surprise – that is the way America seems to be headed
- Will likely spur more participation in the event this year
- Further proof that judges with an agenda are getting bolder
As is usual with One News Now polls, the answers are skewed to one point of view and my honest answer would be “none of the above.” Still, I suspect that there will be people who will be spurred on to participate in National Day of Prayer events in response to the ruling. Yet it seems to me that a hostile and “in your face” response to the changing face of religious commitment in this country is hardly in the spirit of prayer.
- Wisconsin: Prayer Day Ruled Unconstitutional (New York Times)
- Federal judge: National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional (Christian Science Monitor)