The pastor who is leading the National Day of Prayer observance today in Washington, DC pulls out all the well-worn canards-
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) successfully sued the Federal Govt. over the National Day of Prayer in 2011. According to U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb:
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic. Crabb wrote that her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer. She noted government involvement in prayer may be constitutional if the conduct serves a "significant secular purpose" and doesn't amount to a call for religious action. But the National Day of Prayer crosses that line, she wrote.
Said Judge Crabb: "It 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," she wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."
However- in April 2012, a Federal Appeals Court overturned that decision. Their (lame) ruling: The three judges of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the observation caused no harm to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, so the Madison, Wis.-based group had no legal standing to sue.
"A feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury," the appeals court said in its opinion, written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook.
Also in 2012, the Colorado court of appeals ruled that the governor's Prayer Day proclamations were unconstitutional. To my knowledge, the only state to do so?
When the state sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer, the three-judge panel found, it sends a message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado's political community.
"In doing so, they undermine the premise that the government serves believers and nonbelievers equally," Judge Steven Bernard wrote in a 73-page decision.
The content of six Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations, 2004 to 2009, is "predominantly religious," lacking a secular context or purpose, and the effect is "government endorsement of religion over nonreligion," Bernard wrote. Judges Alan Loeb and Nancy Lichtenstein concurred.