National Day of Prayer Deemed Unconstitutional

photo by ensignmedia  at morguefile.com
photo by ensignmedia at morguefile.com

In 1952, after being passed unanimously by both houses of Congress, a National Day of Prayer was established. President Truman signed it into law. Thirty-six years later, under President Reagan, the first Thursday in May was designated as the National Day of Prayer.

President Reagan stated, "On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for His blessing."

During his presidency, Bill Clinton gave a statement each year regarding the National Day of Prayer. In 1995 he stated, "I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together on that day to pray, each in his or her own manner, for God's continued guidance and blessing."

In 2002, President George W. Bush stated in his proclamation that the two purposes of the National Day of Prayer were: "...to reaffirm the role of prayer in our society and to honor the religious diversity our freedom permits..."

This year, 2010, President Barack Obama has included this statement in his proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, "Throughout our history, whether in times of great joy and thanksgiving, or in times of great challenge and uncertainty, Americans have turned to prayer. In prayer, we have expressed gratitude and humility, sought guidance and forgiveness, and received inspiration and assistance, both in good times and in bad."

Jesse Ventura did not support the National Day of Prayer
Jesse Ventura did not support the National Day of Prayer
U.S. District Judge, Barbara Crabb
U.S. District Judge, Barbara Crabb

Under Attack

In 1999, then Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, was one of only a few governors in the United States who refused to issue a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer. He signed a statement of recognition but did not offer state support.

Ventura stated "There are people out there who are Atheists, who don't believe at all. They are all citizens of Minnesota, and I have to respect that."

He was criticized by Minnesota Family Council President, Tom Prichard, who discussed Ventura's proclamation for the Rolling Stones. Prichard said, "In a time of school shootings and international turmoil, we should be encouraging prayer all the times. I would think the governor at the very least would give the same recognition to a day of prayer that he gave to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones."

In 2000, the Texas Metroplex Atheists held peaceful demonstrations in Texas, while similar demonstrations were held in Florida and Michigan to protest the National Day of Prayer. Since then, Atheists have continued to protest the National Day of Prayer.

In 2008, The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration claiming that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics whose goal is to block the President from making an annual proclamation which is the custom of the event.

In April 2010, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, Wisconsin, ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. She wrote, "it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray."

Judge Crabb says the National Day of Prayer violates the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment. She said, "The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute." She has also said the the National Day of Prayer makes those who do not pray feel marginalized and that they "suffer a distinct harm."

No more National Day of Prayer?
No more National Day of Prayer?

Do you think the National Day of Prayer violates the U.S. Constitution?

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Reaction

In an article written by Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, he reacted to the ruling by stating, "By Judge Crabb's standards, if the federal recognition of the National Day of Prayer is illegal, so is Christmas Day and Easter Sunday."

Daly went on to say that, "Legal scholars agree that the Establishment Clause was devised to prevent the United States government from declaring and financially supporting a "national religion" much like Great Britain did with the Church of England."

The Justice Department has been urged to file an appeal by the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

According to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., "The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon."

Franklin Graham, this year's honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer says, "At a time when our country is waging two wars, approval ratings for Congress are at historic lows, unemployment is at a 70-year high and financial institutions have collapsed around us, I can't imagine anyone seriously opposing a National Day of Prayer."

Graham also stated that there is no requirement that people pray.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), said the decision was badly thought out.

"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," Sekulow said.

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Comments 34 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Cari, I don't think the national day of prayer hurts anyone. Obama had a national day of Muslim prayer on the front lawn of the White House last year. The day of prayer was observed by many last year but Obama said he would pray alone in his office unlike every other president since Eisenhower. How can it hurt the atheist when all he has to do is not participate. Good hub.


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Cari,

this statement says it all for me. "it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community" In her own words the judge is recognizing that prayer is effectual. So, if the govt does not stand to announce it "The People" stand and organize it. We don't need someone to announce it-we just do it. I don't think it is unconstitutional to nationally recognize a day of prayer - but no matter -I will still stand and host a gathering to pray and as I know others will do the same, there will still be a national day of prayer.

God save America

CS


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

I am glad there are still people who want to pray. I hope we all continue. The good thing about this kind of opposition is it strengthens our determination to pray.

I unite with you coffeesnob.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

She has also said the the National Day of Prayer makes those who do not pray feel marginalized and that they "suffer a distinct harm."

Interesting choice of words here!!!Pathetic argument really-as if some judge could stop those who actually want to pray from praying-clearly she has some belief in the efficacy of prayer.

Fascinating article:)


eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

How come did I think only Supreme Court was the only who could rule if some thing was unconstitutional or not. Some how I thought District Judges couldn't rule this. Where did I go wrong?

Keep on hubbing!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for a great hub. I am surprised that Jesse Ventura was voted. Iam not being nasty but the sight of the man tells you everything. He is certainly not somebody American can be proud of.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Very good, Cari. Keep kicking at the darkness. Blessings.


JenDobson27 profile image

JenDobson27 6 years ago

Loved the hub and the comment by coffeesnob! I'm very disappointed that the national day of prayer was ruled unconstitutional. I think that it's absolutely ridiculous and the reasoning just doesn't make any sense. No one is forcing anyone to pray. If you don't want to celebrate the national day of pray than you simple don't have to. That's the beauty of freedom! I know people will continue to pray and gather to pray. And I hope more people do because our country is falling apart at the seems. We just have to keep our hope and our faith that we will persevere in the end :)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Keep i mind that socialists and communists have no room for religion in their lives.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Pamela - Obama has never done anything publicly with the National Day of Prayer - he just issues his proclamation and that's it. I wonder too how it can hurt the atheists - how about we'll leave you and your lack of theology alone if you leave us and our theology alone.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

coffeesnob - you're right, even if the gov't doesn't announce it or proclaim it we the people can still gather together to pray. We can make everyday a national day of prayer if we want to!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

HealthyHanna - yes, the opposition will only strengthen us to pray. I agree! I, too, unite with coffeesnob! Thanks so much for your comment.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

itakins - I know isn't that ridiculous? How are the atheists suffering harm - I guess they are feeling left out. Well, boo hoo.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

eovery - yeah, I was kind of stymied by that too. I think this judge just wants to make a name for herself or something so she just gave out a ruling that she knew would be controversial.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Hello, hello - love your comment! Jesse Ventura was actually a professional wrestler and the Minnesotans must of thought that was cool or something so they voted him in as their governor. Guess you don't always have to be a politician anymore!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Ken - always appreciate hearing from you - thanks for your encouraging words.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

JenDobson27 - I agree, we need prayer now more than ever. Hopefully this ruling will be appealed and turned over - it will be interesting to see what happens from here. Thanks so much for your comment.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

BP - sad but true. Thanks for stopping in!


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago

Cari Jean, Very good informative, Hub! This is a ridiculous ruling! Slowly but surely the very principles upon which our country was founded upon are slipping away!

"The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon." I AGREE! No one can stop you from praying!This is why it is important to know God's WORD!

AMERICA NEEDS PRAYER MORE THAN EVER!

In His love, peace & Blessings!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

DeBorrah - It is a ridiculous ruling and hopefully it will be appealed then overturned! The decision totally undermines religious freedom. Thanks you so much for your comment!


CYBERSUPE profile image

CYBERSUPE 6 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

Do Americans only pray when there is a "nine eleven" and forget that there is a God at all. Another disaster, OH we better PRAY. God Bless You Cari for being brave enough to write this Hub. I am joining your Fan Club. I want to read more about praying. You got my Vote.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

CYBERSUPE - that is so true. After 9/11 it seemed that everyone was flocking to church to pray. We can't just prayer after there's disaster, we need to pray so that these disasters can be prevented. Thanks for your great comment and for becoming a fan - greatly appreciated.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago

I am hoping that this trend toward whitewashing the government of anything religious is over. The other day, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of letting stand the Mojave cross. There are more scholars today poking holes in the Wall of Separation Doctrine (to continue the metaphor). Hopefully their kind will be successful and this infringement on religious liberty will be checked. Thanks for this fine hub.


allpurposeguru profile image

allpurposeguru 6 years ago from North Carolina

The sheer idiocy of the "freedom from religion" crowd is appalling. It's scary that they found a federal judge ignorant enough of American legal tradition to side with them. Hasn't the President always declared all kinds of national days? Hmm. I know what my next Hub will be!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Bibowen - I think this trend is actually going to continue and only get stronger. That is why we have to keep up with all that is going on and continually pray for our country. I am glad about the outcome of the Mojave cross. Thanks for your comment.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

allpurposeguru - am looking forward to reading your next hub! Thanks for your comment.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

You gave me good information. I got new knowledge now. thumbs up for you. A great hub!


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

prasetio30 - glad you learned something and gained some knowledge from this hub. Thanks for your comment.


Humma Ofi profile image

Humma Ofi 6 years ago from Detroit, MI

Prayer seems to be the only thing the multitudes of destitute and distraught in this country have to hold on to. It seems to be long overdue. The people in this country opposing prayer are not hopeless and helpless like those who have turned to God for help. No one else is listening. God help us all. I cry out to God seeking only His decision.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Humma Ofi - Thank you for your insightful comment. You are so right on when you say that the people in this country opposing prayer are not hopeless and helpless - maybe one day of they become truly hopeless they will end up seeking Him.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for this excellent reportage. This shows how far Satan has his hooks into Americans of a certain stripe. They are sick. We need to pray for them.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

James - thanks so much for stopping in, I always appreciate hearing from you. Prayer is probably the only way these people's hearts will be softened and Jesus can lead them out of the darkness they are in.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Things like this always get to me. Fine, we all know that there are irreligious people in our country. I, for one, happen to be one of them. That said, having a national day of prayer does no one any harm. It tramples on no one's feet. If you don't have a relgious belief, you simply do not participate. If the irreligious want to go one step further and say, "Well, what about a national day of non-prayer," I say, that's what the other 364 days in the year are for. Sure, you could say the same thing for prayer...

But what's the difference is what I want to know?

Our government, heedless of our personal beliefs, was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy. I respect that even if I happen to not be a Christian. Our country and our system of laws, our history and culture, is Judeo-Christian. I love my country. I am a patriot. I cannot be a patriot, nor can I love my country, if I dismiss the foundations of it, or do not hold a deep and profound respect for it.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND Author

Springboard - thanks so much for your great comment. I wish there were more people like you, who are not necessarily religious, but still respect the fact this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Some people need to go back and re-learn their history.

It will be interesting to see if this ruling remains.

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