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."
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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