Court rules National Day of Prayer is constitutional,
the government's declaration of NDP isn't
The government and NDP activities.
Confusing media reports on court case
The connection between various governments and NDP activities:
The FFRF asserts that the NDP Task Force (NDPTF) "aligns and partners" with the federal government. Indications of this are:
- The NDPTF refers to its Internet presence as the "The National Day of Prayer 'Official Website'."
- The task force prepares the wording of the annual proclamation, selects a yearly theme, and selects a Bible quotation. These appear in President Bush's proclamation and in at least 15 proclamations by state governors.
The FFRF publication "Freethought Today" stated:
"The Foundation Complaint asserts that the Establishment Clause 'prohibits government officials and persons acting in joint and concerted action with government officials from taking actions that endorse religion, including specific religions in preference to others, as well as preferring religion over non-religion'."
" 'Exhortations to pray in official Presidential proclamations do not constitute ceremonial deism solemnizing some other occasion,' the Foundation notes, but 'constitute an end in itself intended to promote and endorse religion'."
"The Complaint notes that the prayer proclamations 'create a bond between church and state,' causing such violations as an official prayer breakfast organized on May 1, 2008, by Sheriff Dean Roland, Burnett Co., WI The Sheriff organizes an annual prayer breakfast and sends out invitations on Sheriff’s Department letterhead. His speaker this year was Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (Elect) Michael Gableman, who, among other things, said that official acknowledgment of reliance on 'Divine Providence' is necessary for our nation’s success and well-being."
"Also named is Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, who issued a proclamation this year extolling prayer and exhorting Wisconsin citizens to prayer, utilizing National Day of Prayer Task Force themes, giving the appearance of state endorsement of religion. The suit alleges that the NDP Task Force pressures governors from all 50 states to issue official proclamations, acting 'in concert' in a way that aligns them with 'the Judeo-Christian principles on which the Task Force is based'."
" 'The concerted actions by these Governors to include the NDP Task Force theme and biblical reference are not accidental or coincidental; they are the result of joint action with the NDP Task Force,' observed the Foundation. The proclamations 'convey to nonreligious Americans that they are expected to believe in God,' and send a message that 'religion is preferred over non-religion'."
" 'Designations of an official Day of Prayer by Presidential and Gubernatorial proclamations, encouraging celebration of prayer, create a hostile environment for nonbelievers. who are made to feel as if they are political outsiders,' continues the complaint." 1
Confusing media reports on the court case:
The religious and secular media have hit a new low in accurately reporting the NDP. Many news sources do not differentiate between:
- A court ruling that the NDP itself is unconstitutional. This didn't happen.
- A court ruling that the federal law setting up the NDP, presidential proclamations and state proclamations are unconstitutional. That did happen.
Some example of confusing headlines:
- American Family Association:
- Title: "U.S. District Court Finds National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional"
- First sentence: "The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional." 2
- Americans United for separation of church and state:
- Title: "Americans United Praises Federal Court Decision Striking Down National Day Of Prayer" 3
- To their credit, they did clarify in their second sentence that it was the federal law that violates the constitution, not the National Day of Prayer itself.
- Center for Inquiry: a secular/freethought news source:
- Title: "Ruling Striking Down National Day of Prayer." 4
- Christian Science Monitor:
- Title: "Federal judge: National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional."
- To their credit, they did clarify in their first sentence that it was the federal law that violates the constitution, not the National Day of Prayer itself.
- CitizenLink, a service of Focus on the Family Action:
- First sentence: "A federal judge ruled this week that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional." 5
- Family Research Council:
- First sentence: "... a judge in Wisconsin ruled to reintroduce tyranny in America--this time, from the bench. In a decision that is rocking our nation to its very core, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb determined that a national day of prayer--a tradition as old as the country itself--is unconstitutional." 6
- Fox News: a news source that describes themselves as "Fair & Balanced:"
- Title: "Judge: Natl Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional."
- First sentence: "The National Day of Prayer, honored in the United States for more than a half-century, is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled." 7
- LifeSiteNews, a Catholic news source:
- Title: "Court: National Day of Prayer is Unconstitutional."
- First sentence: "In a decision released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional." 8
It seems that the media's accuracy and dedication to the truth do not matter much any more. This appears to be a dangerous trend on radio, TV, at political rallies, among talk show hosts, etc. America deserves better. The public needs to be informed.
This information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still valid today.
- "FFRA sues Bush, Dobson, Doyle over National Day of Prayer," in Freethought Today, Freedom from Religion Foundation, 2008-OCT., Volume 25, #8. Online at: http://www.ffrf.org/
- Tasha Easterling, "U.S. District Court Finds National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional," American Family Association, 2010-APR-16, at: http://www.afa.net/
- "Americans United Praises Federal Court Decision Striking Down National Day Of Prayer," Americans United, 2010-APR-15, at: http://www.au.org/
- "CFI applauds ruling striking down National Day of Prayer," Center for Inquiry, 2010-APR-16, at: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/
- Kim Trobee, "Friday Five: Rep. Randy Forbes on the National Day of Prayer Decision," CitizenLink, 2010-APR-16, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
- "So help us God," Family Research Council, 2010-APR-16, at: http://www.frc.org/
- Mike Levine: "Judge: Natl Day of Prayer Unconstitutional," Fox News, 2010-APR-15, at: http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/
- John Jalsevac, "U.S. Court: National Day of Prayer is Unconstitutional," LifeSiteNews, 2010-APR-15, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2010-APR-16
Most recent update: 2010-APR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson