Obama Appeal an Error Over Day of Prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation expressed its "severe disappointment" at President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday that he is appealing the April 15 ruling by a federal judge declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. The Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., brought the challenge on behalf of its national membership. The Foundation, with more than 14,400 members, is the largest association of freethinkers (nonbelievers, atheists and agnostics) in the country.

"We expected better of someone who has taught constitutional law than to capitulate to the religious right. This unconstitutional violation infringes on personal conscience and is a distressing relic of the McCarthy era," said Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, Foundation co-presidents and two of the lawsuit's six individual plaintiffs.

"It is an egregious violation of personal conscience for Congress and the President to tell 'all Americans' that we must pray, that we must set aside an entire day once a year for prayer, and that we should gather with others to pray in homes and churches," said Gaylor.

"The National Day of Prayer presupposes that 'all Americans' believe in a god, and further, believe in a god that answers prayers!" added Barker, author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and Godless. "The law and the annual presidential proclamations inappropriately equate piety with being an American citizen, and turn nonbelievers into political outsiders."

The Foundation urges all FFRF members and secular Americans to take action now to support FFRF's National Day of Prayer challenge.

  • Write your elected officials asking them to not participate, in their official capacity, in the National Day of Prayer and not to issue prayer proclamations. 
  • Sign FFRF's just-posted online petition to President Obama and the 50 governors.
  • Donate today to the Legal Fund (see button below).
  • The Foundation challenges those who can afford to help to become sponsors of a full-page ad opposing the National Day of Prayer, to run the first week of May in The New York Times with a million circulation (the National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 6). Those who contribute $1,000 or more will be named as sponsors of the educational message. Gaylor and Barker became the first such sponsors by personally contributing $1,000 each for the project. "We need only 50 more sponsors," they said. Any donations contributed for the advertised message in excess of the ad will go to FFRF's Legal Fund to help pay for the appeal.

"We also would like to win this case in the court of public opinion," said Gaylor. "If elected officials only see a religious backlash, they will never stand up for our secular Constitution."

Already, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which appointed itself organizer of the federal event, is rallying its troops. The task force's legal defender is the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been feverishly demanding donations since the decision was handed down, although it boasts a $32.7 million annual budget!

"This is a 'David vs. Goliath' fight, folks, and we need some practical support. We hate to see the religious right enrich its coffers at the expense of FFRF and the Constitution," Gaylor added.

Obama's appeal will be heard in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The Foundation has already spent more than $50,000 in litigation fees on the significant challenge, which has been FFRF's most time-consuming and complex lawsuit to date.

Gaylor said: "We like the slogan litigation attorney Richard Bolton suggested: 'National Day of Prayer: Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.' Help FFRF call the whole thing off!"

Visit FFRF's "Defend FFRF's Challenge of the National Day of Prayer" page.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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