Foundation Bid To Strike Down Prayer Law Dismissed

April 14, 2011; Source: USA Today | With all that he's dealing with – wars, a struggling economy, and a deeply divided Congress – it's understood that President Obama takes a moment now and then to pray. However, when the president issues a proclamation officially designating May 5 as the National Day of Prayer, he'll neither be imposing his beliefs on the nation, nor as the Freedom from Religion Foundation claims, violating the U.S. Constitution.

According to a ruling this week by a federal appeals court, the president is just doing his job and observing the requirements of the law, passed in 1952, that says the country shall designate one day a year when people are invited "to turn to God in prayer and meditation." The decision overturns a 2010 lower court ruling that had found the law unconstitutional. The three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the foundation's claims by saying that the power to proclaim a day of prayer is an essential part of the job duties of all U.S. presidents, and as U.S.A Today reports, private citizens have "no legal standing to challenge it."

The court also said that a presidential proclamation designating a day of prayer is a request to the public, not a command. "Those who do not agree with a president's statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove," the court said.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation said it would seek a rehearing of the case by the full court's panel of judges. "Our challenge is so strong, our claim is so correct," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the foundation. "The First Amendment says, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.' 'No law' should mean no law!"—Bruce Trachtenberg