National Day of Prayer overturned

The National Day of Prayer is history.

A federal judge in Madison today declared the annual day of prayer to be unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. The day is the first Thursday in May.

Proponents of the National Day of Prayer said those objecting to it had no standing to bring a case because they were not required to “come into contact” with religious observances.

“This is simply wrong,” Judge Barbara Crabb wrote when she refused to throw the case out last month (see decision). “Although the court of appeals has noted in some opinions that plaintiffs were fulfilling a legal obligation when they encountered religious speech, the court has never limited standing to those cases. For example, one of the injuries in Books I, 235 F.3d at 297, was viewing a religious monument on the way to a public library. The injuries included viewing a display before picking up a map in a public building. Further, most of the establishment clause challenges before the Supreme Court did not involve plaintiffs performing “civic duties.”

“The injury caused by religious conduct of the government is largely expressive,

meaning that the harm is caused by receiving a message from the government that his or her views on religion are disfavored,” she wrote.

She said that if the litmus test of the statute’s unconstitutionality were that people had to be forced to come into contact with a religious observance, “the federal government could declare the ‘National Day of Anti- Semitism’ or even declare Christianity the official religion of the United States, but no one’would have standing to sue because no one would have to ‘pass by’ those declarations. ”

Coincidentally, an anti-Obama mailer is making its round on the Internet today that President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer. The Obama administration was actually the defendant in this case. But he canceled the White House ceremony last year.