Federal Judge Declares National Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional

04.16.10 | FL News Team

A federal judge has ruled that the National Day of Prayer -- held by every president since Dwight Eisenhower -- is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb issued a 66-page ruling from her bench in Madison, Wisconsin, that the Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment. Specifically, she wrote, it violates the so-called establishment clause, which bars the federal government from "establishment of religion." Courts have traditionally interpreted that as the principle of separation of church and state. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed litigation against the Bush administration in 2008, challenging the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. Judge Crabb has stayed her ruling pending completion of appeals.

 In her decision, the judge said the ruling is not a judgment against the value of prayer. Rather, she wrote, "No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer." She added, quote, "The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute." Some members of Congress are urging the Justice Department to appeal the ruling. A spokesman said the department is reviewing the ruling. Congress established the observance in 1952. The next National Day of Prayer is set for May 6th.