Federal appeals court dismisses challenge to U.S. National Day of Prayer
CHICAGO, Wed Apr 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On April 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) that sought to strike down the U.S. National Day of Prayer.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which filed a supporting brief as a friend of the court on behalf of the private, non-profit National Day of Prayer Task Force, said in a press release, “Public officials should be able to participate in public prayer activities just as America’s founders did.”
ADF praised the court’s decision for determining that “a feeling of alienation” was not sufficient legal grounds for the atheist group to file suit.
“The 7th Circuit has clearly understood that the Freedom From Religion Foundation simply had no legal standing to attack the federal statute setting a day for the National Day of Prayer simply because the group is offended by religion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.
The 7th Circuit decision quashed an April, 2010 ruling by Wisconsin federal district Judge Barbara Crabb in favor of FFRF, who said the National Day of Prayer was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a joint resolution by Congress to set aside an annual National Day of Prayer. Congress amended the law in 1988 specifying that the annual event would be observed on “the first Thursday in May each year.” Historically, including 2010, all 50 governors, along with U.S. presidents, have issued proclamations in honor of the National Day of Prayer.
The FFRF claimed that the presidential proclamation encouraging citizens to pray was an “injury” to Americans, and launched the suit to have this law declared unconstitutional.
The 7th Circuit rejected this argument and ruled that the FFRF and its members lacked standing to pursue the suit.
Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, writing for the three-judge panel, said that the president’s proclamation is simply an invitation for citizens to pray if they are so inclined, and refusing the invitation is without consequence.
“The ‘psychological consequence presumably produced by observation of conduct with which one disagrees’ is not an ‘injury’ for the purpose of standing. … Plaintiffs have not altered their conduct one whit or incurred any cost in time or money. All they have is disagreement with the President’s action. But unless all limits on standing are to be abandoned, a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury in fact,” Judge Easterbrook wrote.
The 7th Circuit court subsequently sent the case back to district court with instructions to dismiss the lawsuit.