Its a shame that this wasn’t dismissed, but perhaps it is better to deal with it soundly.
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled this week the case brought by the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation can move forward with discovery.
A federal law sets the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.
Crabb says the nation’s largest group of atheists and agnostics faces a heavy burden in proving the tradition violates the separation of church and state. But she says it should have an opportunity to do so.
The Obama administration and National Day of Prayer Task Force filed motions to dismiss the case, but Crabb rejected them as premature.
Here is a bit of information from the plaintiff’s side:
The Foundation filed suit last fall, naming as defendants Pres. George W. Bush (now Barack Obama) and Shirley Dobson, director of the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Taskforce. The Foundation lawsuit in part alleges an inappropriate “hand-in-glove” relationship between government officials and the Focus on the Family offshoot.
FFRF research has discovered that the National Day of Prayer was suggested by evangelist Billy Graham. Congress passed legislation requiring the president to issue a National Day of Prayer in 1952. Under Reagan, legislation was passed designating the first Thursday of every May as “National Day of Prayer.” Violations have increased since that change, partly due to NDP Taskforce goals to get all governors and many local officials to also issue proclamations, plan events, prayer breakfasts and rallies.
The Foundation is dealing with the usual roster of state/church complaints caused by the National Day of Prayer, most at the municipal level. Foundation staff attorney Rebecca Kratz has written mayors in Largo, El Paso and in Keizer, Ore. over official Mayor Prayer Breakfasts hosted or promoted by mayors. The event in El Paso is explicitly tied to a Christian proselytizing group. Gaylor wrote Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett over a “Ceasefire Sabbath” breakfast hosted this Friday for “faith leaders.”
Here is the list of people who tried to dismiss the lawsuit:
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the western district of Wisconsin, in an opinion and order issued on Tuesday, denied motions to dismiss the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s far-reaching legal challenge of National Day of Prayer proclamations. Denied were motions to dismiss filed by defendants Pres. Barack Obama, press secretary Robert Gibbs and Shirley Dobson, of the National Day of Prayer Taskforce.
Also seeking dismissal of the Foundation challenge was Pat Robertson’s legal arm, the American Center for Law & Justice, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of 31 members of Congress.*
U.S. Representatives who signed onto the ACLJ brief are: J. Randy Forbes, Robert B. Aderholt, Michele Bachmann, Roscoe G. Bartlett, John A. Boehner, John Boozman, Eric Cantor, K. Michael Conaway, Mary Fallin, Virginia Foxx, Trent Franks, Scott Garrett, Louie Gohmert, Wally Herger, Peter Hoekstra, Walter B. Jones, Jim Jordan, Doug Lamborn, Thaddeus G. McCotter, Patrick T. McHenry, Mike McIntyre, Jeff Miller, Sue Wilkins Myrick, Randy Neugebauer, Pete Olson, Mike Pence, Joseph R. Pitts, Heath Shuler, Adrian Smith, Lamar Smith, and Joe Wilson