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Federal judge: National Day of Prayer unconstitutional

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Image of a man praying.
Image of a man praying.

MADISON (WSAU) Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison says the National Day of Prayer is un-constitutional, because it violates the First Amendment’s ban on laws establishing religion. Crabb ruled yesterday in favor of Madison’s Freedom-from-Religion-Foundation, which filed suit against the White House to end the president’s annual proclamation.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor called the decision courageous. She said it invades Americans’ freedom of conscience when the president tells them to pray. The Justice Department says it will review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal it.

Jordan Sekulow, an attorney for a legal group started by evangelist Pat Robertson, is confident Crabb’s decision will be overturned. He says it does reflect the mainstream of judicial thinking throughout the country.

Crabb says her decision will not be enforced until all appeals are exhausted. So the White House said it would declare the National Day of Prayer for May sixth. The day had its origins in 1952, when the Reverend Billy Graham called for such an event.

Congress passed a law in 1988 setting the first Thursday of May as a National Day of Prayer. Former President George W. Bush held activities on that day. President Obama ended those events, but he still issued the declaration and encouraged Americans to pray on their own.

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