Magazine article Church & State

Americans United Criticizes Appellate Court Ruling on National Day of Prayer

Magazine article Church & State

Americans United Criticizes Appellate Court Ruling on National Day of Prayer

Article excerpt

Americans United sharply criticized an April 14 decision by a federal appeals court holding that citizens do not have the right to challenge the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer (NDP).

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a legal challenge to the NDP fifed by the Madison, Wise.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, ruling that the group lacks "standing"--the legal right to sue. The court said that since the law creating the NDP requires the president to issue a prayer proclamation, only the president can challenge it.

In a press statement, Americans United called the court's ruling "misguided and poorly reasoned."

Americans United said the ruling establishes a dangerous precedent.

"This decision is part of an ominous trend in the federal courts to deny Americans the right to challenge church-state violations," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

"I don't want the government telling me when, how or whether to pray," Lynn continued. "Under the court's logic, Congress could order the president to declare the United States a Christian nation--and no one could challenge it in court. That, to be blunt, makes a mockery of the First Amendment's religious liberty protections."

Writing for the unanimous court, Judge Frank Easterbrook said that the NDP does not coerce anyone to pray. He likened it to a suggestion from the president that Americans contribute to the Red Cross. …

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