I am happy to see that President Obama seems to agree; although I am a bit leery of his reasons for doing so. The founders did not include anywhere in the Constitution a "separation of Church and State". What they included was the establishment clause within the 1st Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Emphasis mine)
Activist judges have chosen to interpret this as a blanket prohibition on any mention of religion by the government. This ignores the context in which the founders penned the Constitution. It ignores the invocations of God and faith included in the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Activists have chosen to ignore the emphasis the founders placed on faith; misinterpreting the establishment clause to suite their own misguided agenda. The national day of prayer does not call for the establishment of a religion or place any one religion upon a pedestal. Prayer seems to be a common thread throughout almost all of the established religions thereby favoring none.
Below is the Associated Press article regarding the ruling:
By The Associated Press
04.16.10 MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional yesterday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government could no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it could encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.
"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.
Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state.
President Barack Obama's administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.
Crabb wrote that her ruling shouldn't be considered a bar to any prayer days until all appeals are exhausted. U.S. Justice Department attorneys who represented the federal government in the case were reviewing the ruling yesterday afternoon, agency spokesman Charles Miller said.
Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich said in an e-mail to the Associated Press the president still planned to issue a proclamation for the next prayer day.
"As he did last year, President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer," Lehrich said.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the government on behalf of 31 members of Congress, called Crabb's ruling flawed and promised to back an appeal if one is filed.
"It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement.
The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group of Christian lawyers, issued a statement saying Crabb's ruling undermined American tradition dating to the nation's birth.
Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Richard Bolton didn't return a message seeking comment.
Crabb wrote that her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer. She noted government involvement in prayer may be constitutional if the conduct serves a "significant secular purpose" and doesn't amount to a call for religious action. But the National Day of Prayer crosses that line, she wrote.
"It goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," she wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."