Note: Scroll down to the bottom to see what you can do to help protect the National Day of Prayer!
Those whiney atheists [they call themselves nontheists. You say tomato…] over at the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to have the National Day of Prayer declared unconstitutional. Judge Barbara Crabb has answered their prayers, actually declaring the National Day of Prayer – an American tradition since 1952 – unconstitutional. As their name inplies, groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation feel they have the right to push religion from the public square. They benefit from a society established on a Judeo-Christian foundation, but they’ve chosen to be willfully ignorant of our country’s history. They’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.
But they believe in a recent interpretation of the US Constitution that mandates a wall of spearation between church and state that our Founding Fathers would have cringed over. It’s not what the Founders intended. Thomas Jefferson’s letter has been woefully overemphasized. The US Constitutional only notes that Atheist groups like the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation IGNORE the fact that US documents [the Preamble comes to mind] and US monuments mention God, that prayer has long been an adornment of official US government proceedings and that, yes, the atheists are a minority. Minority rights are protected, but they were never meant to obliterate the rights of the majority. Their rights to abstain from prayer on a day set aside to encourage prayer – not MANDATE it – is protected. This is NOT the government establishment of religion. It’s merely a proclamation to encourage prayer on USAmerica’s behalf.
The irony is the vapidity evident in Judge Crabb’s decision. She admits:
“[T]he Court has held on many occasions that the government violates the establishment clause when it engages in conduct that a reasonable observer would view as an endorsement of a particular religious belief or practice, including prayer. On the other hand, the Court has held that some forms of “ceremonial deism,” such as legislative prayer, do not violate the establishment clause.”
Yet here is a statute that is simple ceremonial deism – not encouragement to pray to any particular deity, but simply to pray for USAmerica. And she wants to give America freedom FROM religion [not freedom OF religion] based on what?
According to Judge Crabb:
In my view of the case law, government involvement in prayer may be consistent with the establishment clause when the government’s conduct serves a significant secular purpose and is not a “call for religious action on the part of citizens.” McCreary County, Kentucky v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844, 877 (2005).
Unfortunately, § 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”
Note where she errs. DON’T MISS THIS!
She goes from acknowledging that government involvement in prayer is permissible if it serves a secular purpose and if it’s not a call for religious action, then goes on to call prayer inherently religious WITH NO SECULAR FUNCTION in this context. Wrong! It’s a prayer for the continued blessing of the country, just as prayer is invoked before legislatures for similar purposes.
She goes on to note how Rev Billy Graham caused the National Day of Prayer to be established in 1952 and how a set date was established for the year proclamation in 1988 as the first Thursday in May. After a trip down memory lane, she goes back to the idea that the government encouraging folks to pray causes those who don’t pray to feel disenfranchised by their government, to feel like outsiders. She relies heavily upon McCreary County, Kentucky v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844, 877 (2005). Heavily may be an understatement. She nearly cut-and-pasted the entire ruling!
Particularly this part:
“When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 883 (O’Connor, J., concurring).”
She puts out several nitpicking objections to the National Day of Prayer [The most bizarre of which is an attempted theological objection: “Even some who believe in the form of prayer contemplated by the statute may object to encouragements to pray in such a public manner. E.g., Matthew 6:5 (“You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.”)” – which was a commandment against vanity and posturing in public prayer for the approval of men. In context with the entirety of Scripture [not just one passage], public prayer was often invoked by kings and religious leaders throughout the Bible. Oops.], but finally gets down to brass tacks.
What’s disturbingly fascinating about her opinion is that it catalogues the perverted war against public expression of religion, prayer in particular, by anti-liberty groups like the ACLU. These guys cliam that they’re for the promotion of liberties, but they’re demonstrably against liberty – they’d like to legislate away all RELIGIOUS liberty.
She dismisses the [reasonable] objection that a National Day of Prayer is no different than government statutes recognizing religious holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving:
“Although these holidays have religious origins, their celebration by the government does not connote endorsement in the eyes of the reasonable observer because of thesignificant secular meaning the holidays now have. Metzl, 57 F.3d at 620.”
Disgusting. She cited another court ruling on the matter [among others]:
“The government may acknowledge Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, but under the First Amendment it may not observe it as a Christian holy day by suggesting that people praise God for the birth of Jesus.”
After all, why acknowledge the obvious?
Anyway, my next quote from her ruling is a bit long, but you need to read this:
As discussed in the undisputed facts section, the bill proposing the National Day of Prayer was introduced at the conclusion of a “phenomenal evangelistic revival” in Washington, D.C. led by Billy Graham in which he gave a speech on the Capitol steps asking Congress to “call on the President for the proclamation of a day of prayer.” 98 Cong. Rec. 771, A910 (1952).
Graham stated that “men have come to believe that religion has no place in the affairs of the state . . . We have dropped our pilot, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are sailing blindly on without divine chart or compass . . . God is warning the American people, through the preaching of His word, to repent of sin and turn to God while there is time.” Id. at A910-11.
He wished “to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before the Almighty God in prayer.” Id. at A910.
Percy Priest introduced a bill in the House of Representatives “embod[ying] the suggestions made . . . on the steps of the Capitol by the great spiritual leader, Billy Graham.” 98 Cong. Rec. 771. Representatives made statements in support of the bill that “the national interest would be much better served if we turn aside for a full day of prayer for spiritual help and guidance from the Almighty during these troublous times,” id., and that “it is fitting and timely that the people of America, in approaching the Easter season, as Godfearing men and women, devote themselves to a day of prayer in the interest of peace.”
In the Senate, sponsor Absalom Robertson stated that a National Day of Prayer was a measure against “the corrosive forces of communism which seek simultaneously to destroy our democratic way of life and the faith in an Almighty God on which it is based.” 98 Cong. Rec. 976 (1952). A Senate report concluded that Prayer has indeed been a vital force in the growth and development of this Nation. It would certainly be appropriate if, pursuant to this resolution, and the proclamation it urges, the people of this country were to unite in a day of prayer each year, each in accordance with his own religious faith, thus reaffirming in a dramatic manner the deep religious conviction which has prevailed throughout the history of the United States. S. Rep. No. 82-1389.
This legislative history supports the view that the purpose of the National Day of Prayer was to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, and in particular the Judeo-Christian view of prayer. One might argue that members of Congress voiced secular purposes: to protect against “the corrosive forces of communism” and promote peace. That is true, but the references to these purposes do nothing to diminish the message of endorsement. If anything, they contribute to a sense of disparagement by associating communism with people who do not pray. A fair inference that may be drawn from these statements is that “Americans” pray; if you do not believe in the power of prayer, you are not a true American.
Identifying good citizenship with a particular religious belief is precisely the type of message prohibited by the establishment clause.”
OK, mega dittoes to Billy Graham and all those who listened to him and acknowledged that prayer is a part of our heritage as a Nation, a fact that Judge Crabb acknowledges in print but clearly has never meditated upon seriously. And she needs a good course in logic. She overstates her case with sophomoric zeal. A “fair” inference would be that Americans pray, she claims, but a truly fair reading of the statute would not infer that all Americans pray but that it is an acknowledged cultural phenomenon amongst Americans [waitaminute! Isn’t that allowed [think: Christmas]]. The rest of her argument pretty much dies right there.
But she goes on, documenting how barring displays of the Ten Commandments in public schools, eradication of prayer or even a moment of silence in the same, eradication of clergy-led prayer at public school graduation ceremonies and all the horrible rest have led up to this banal decision by yet another liberal judge legislating from the bench, spitting in the face of the will of majority the USAmerican people. These people want to re-invent America.
Worse, they want to exclude God and all religious expression. And at a time when America needs a call to repentance more than at any other time in its history!
Fortunately, President Obama has announced that he still intends to issue the proclamation, presumably in defiance of Judge Crabb’s highly biased ruling.
She objected to the notion that the National Day of Prayer constituted “ceremonial deism.” Though she noted that “In Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), the Court upheld a longstanding practice in the Nebraska legislature to open sessions with a prayer. The Court wrote that “the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society. To invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is . . . simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.” Id. at 792.”
Sounds about right. She begs off that the defendants rely heavily on Marsh [much as she relies heavily on McCreary!] and insinuates that those who protected traditional prayer before a legislative session in their ruling were less than courageous and should have declared it unConstitutional. She makes excuses for not following precedent by noting the inconsistency of the application of the establishment clause in court cases across the country [mostly being the outcome of the judge’s particular bias, since there is no objective basis of application of the establishment clause [all cases involving its application are fact-sensitive]], but that’s simply a dodge.
While noting that “if history is controlling, it would require the Supreme Court to overrule much of its establishment clause jurisprudence of the last 50 years,” she goes on to note that the court has in fact ignored historical practice [as if it did not reflect the original intent of the Framers] in almost every case involving the establishment cause except Marsh, concerning prayer as ceremonial deism.
I like how Joel Oster put it: “Finally, we get a concession from a federal judge that the last fifty years of jurisprudence has been slightly off the mark from our nation’s history! ”
But as Oster pointed out, Judge Barbara B Crabb struck down the National Day of Prayer because she feels prayer is inherently religious. Fortunately, her ruling does not take effect until all appeals have been exhausted.
I encourage you to sign the petition to encourage our President to appeal this decision and to protect the National Day of Prayer at http://nationaldayofprayer.org/news/save-the-national-day-of-prayer/, where you can also find other ways to get involved. You can also read the ruling for yourself with its sad trail to this present decision.
And whatever else you do, pray for this nation.
Rev Tony Breeden