The first national day of prayer was declared in 1775 when the Continental Congress “designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation.” But in 2010, American judges apparently have a better understanding of the Constitution than the men who founded this country:
A federal judge in Wisconsin declared Thursday that the US law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
US District Judge Barbara Crabb said the federal statute violates the First Amendments prohibition on government endorsement of religion.
She issued a 66-page decision and enjoined President Obama from issuing an executive order calling for the celebration of a National Day of Prayer.
The National Day of Prayer was first authorized by Congress in 1952. Since 1988, the date has been set as the first Thursday in May.
The judge stayed her own injunction pending the resolution of any appeals.
I understand that many may disagree with [my] conclusion and some may even view it as critical of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate, Judge Crabb wrote.
What is unfortunate is the shoddy legal reasoning of the opinion , which acknowledges the history of national calls to prayer and yet still attempts to claim that the decrees by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other presidents have always been unconstitutional.
As law professor Eugene Volokh says, I find this hard to reconcile with the logic of Marsh v. Chambers (1983), which upheld legislative prayers on the grounds that they go back to the founding of the nation; official proclamations of days of prayer, thanksgiving, and even fasting are just as firmly rooted. The opinion tries to distinguish those proclamations from the National Day of Prayer, but I dont see the distinctions as having constitutional significance.