FFRF: Arizona Day of Prayer challenge “ain’t over yet”

It ain't over yet . . . for the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Arizona attorneys, after a federal judge in Arizona said the national group and its Arizona plaintiffs have no right to sue Gov. Jan Brewer over her annual Day of Prayer exhortations to citizens.

The state/church watchdog, based in Madison, Wis., which also serves as the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), brought suit in March 2010 on behalf of its nearly 500 Arizona members and its chapter, the FFRF Valley of the Sun. U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver threw out the lawsuit on Tuesday, issuing a 3-page ruling.

FFRF is filing papers showing intent to appeal the decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and is also considering filing a similar case in state court.

With 17% of the state labeling itself "nonreligious," Arizona has higher than the national average (15%) of unbelievers, who are turned into outsiders when their governor exhorts them to pray annually. Brewer proclaims the Arizona Day of Prayer in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of every May. Additionally, FFRF's lawsuit noted she once even exhorted citizens to pray for the state budget!

Opining that "Prayer is an inherently religious activity" with no secular purpose, FFRF asserted that Brewer's prayer exhortations have given the appearance of "an official endorsement of religion by the State of Arizona."

Silver acknowledged the governor was encouraging prayer, but said "no one, including plaintiffs, is obligated to pray. Nor are plaintiffs forced to alter their physical routine or bear a monetary expense to avoid a religious symbol."

"It is not necessary to show coercion to show a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First amendment," noted Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "It does indeed injure the civil rights and standing in the community of nonbelievers when the highest elected official in the state continually turns them into outsiders because they do not conform to her personal religious views. Atheists and agnostics do not believe in the efficacy of prayer, much less that there is a god who answers prayer."

Said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker: "By the judge's logic, Brewer could misuse her civil authority to issue regular proclamations urging citizens to join her church, yet citizens would have no redress."

FFRF thanks its member plaintiffs. It also thanks pro bono counsel Richard W. Morris and Marc J. Victor for their dedication to the First Amendment.

FFRF's "Out of the Closet" billboard campaign in Arizona, featuring 11 individuals or families proclaiming their nonbelief on billboards was merited a front-page story in the Arizona Republic on Saturday.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend