Court Rules National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

By Melanie Hunter-Omar | April 15, 2010 | 3:22 PM EDT

President Barack Obama receives a kiss from first lady Michelle Obama after speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Sen. Amy Klobuchar D-Minn. Applauds at right. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – A federal district court in Wisconsin ruled on Thursday that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, a decision that has angered a constitutional law firm that filed an amicus brief defending the National Day of Prayer.
The case was filed by The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based group that challenged the constitutionality of a 1988 law giving the president authority to designate the first Thursday in May as National Day of Prayer.
"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," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
"This decision runs counter to well established legal precedent and we're confident that this flawed decision ultimately will be overturned. We will be filing a brief representing members of Congress challenging this federal district court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,” Sekulow said in a statement.
“If the appeals court fails to reverse this decision, we're confident the Supreme Court will hear the case and ultimately determine that such proclamations and observances like the National Day of Prayer not only reflect our nation's rich history, but are indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," he added.
According to the ACLJ brief, the U.S. has a long history of recognizing a national day of prayer dating back to the late 1700’s with the Continental Congress, recommending that states set aside a day for prayer and thanksgiving. Therefore, “historical evidence establishing a National Day of Prayer as deeply embedded in the tradition and history of this country is indisputable,” the brief stated.
"This is the first step in what could be a lengthy legal process that ultimately puts this issue before the Supreme Court. This issue could very well be decided by the next appointee to the high court,” Sekulow said. “An issue like this underscores the importance of why it's so critical for the nominee to answer direct questions about their judicial philosophy, how they view the role of judges, and their view of the rule of law."