Questionable Motives

April 16, 2010

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional: Why didn’t someone tell me Eisenhower was a founding father?

Filed under: Law,Religion,Secularism — tildeb @ 6:56 am

Uh oh. The great state of Wisconsin has really gone and done it now: a federal judge in Madison has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action. From the AP:

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state.

The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group of Christian lawyers, issued a statement saying the judge’s ruling undermines American tradition dating back to the nation’s birth, which according to them must have occurred sometime around 1952 when Eisenhower inserted “under god” into the pledge of allegiance as well as started up the prayer breakfast… clearly the historical revision needed to remake the States into the christian nation it was always meant to be.

The Judge 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.

“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.”

In modern pluralistic democracies, the state should be neutral about the truth and social value of religion. It is not the purpose of the state to prop up and promote religion. In the case of a national day of prayer, there is no significant secular purpose, making this ruling a no-brainer even if it is a courageous one on the part of the judge: now let’s watch the religious in the States throw a hissy fit over this one. Should be some fine entertainment. What do you think? How long will it take until this ruling is categorized by Fox News (the most trusted source of ‘news’ in the nation) and its merry band of talking heads as evidence of another vicious secular “attack” on poor god-fearing christians and their humble ways?



  1. I object to the Church St sign being placed over the State St sign!
    Hardly a coincidence, I’ll bet.

    Comment by Richard Christie — April 24, 2010 @ 1:42 am | Reply

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