It's a culture-war classic. A federal district judge in Wisconsin has
that the congressionally-mandated National Day of Prayer is
unconstitutional. Judge Barbara Crabb said that "In this instance, the
government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual
conscience." The lawsuit was brought about by the Wisconsin-based
Freedom From Religion Foundation, which praised the decision as a "sweet victory
." Will the ruling stand?
- People Really Shouldn't
Be Angry About This writes Steve Benen at The Washington
Monthly: "For all the recent talk about 'big government,' federal
'intrusion,' and getting back to American traditions in line with the
Founding Fathers, conservatives should find an official annual prayer
day for the nation pretty offensive. It's an entirely modern creation --
the NPD was established in 1952, and set as the first Thursday in May
in 1988 -- and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected
state-sponsored prayer days."
- It's a Pretty Questionable
Ruling, writes Eugene Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy:
"I find this hard to reconcile with the logic of Marsh
v. Chambers (1983), which upheld legislative prayers on the
grounds that they go back to the founding of the nation; official
proclamations of days of prayer, thanksgiving, and even fasting are just
as firmly rooted. The opinion tries to distinguish those proclamations
from the National Day of Prayer, but I don’t see the distinctions as
having constitutional significance. And while it’s true that Thomas
Jefferson refused to issue such proclamations, he was something of an
outlier on this; and while James Madison expressed opposition to such
proclamations at one point, he nonetheless issued them."
- Prayer Day Just Rubs Atheists the Wrong Way, writes Bill Egnor at Fire Dog Lake: "There
are a lot of things in our society that are like sandpaper on the skin
of atheists. One of them is the National Day of Prayer. Every year on
the first Thursday of May, the President issues a proclamation urging
the people of the United States to pray. For those with a faith that
involves prayer this seems pretty innocuous, but it is a real thumb in
the eye for citizens without a faith or who don’t have prayer as part of
their religious tradition... The government should not be involved in
the practice of religion at all."
- It Probably Won't Stand
Anyway, writes Ed Brayton at Science Blogs: "The
ruling was made on summary judgment, which means that both sides agreed
on the facts of the case and proceeded to the judge's ruling without a
trial. Don't get too excited; I fully expect it will get reversed on
appeal, by the Supreme Court if not by the 7th Circuit."
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