U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Thursday that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The ruling came down in a lawsuit brought against then-President George W. Bush by the radical atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Judge Crabb was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in 1979 by Jimmy Carter.
Elections do have consequences and judicial appointments are a big part of the legacy of any president, for good or ill.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on President Obama to direct the Justice Department to appeal the ruling.
“America has recognized national days of prayer dating back to the Second Continental Congress in 1775,” Boehner said. “These annual observances allow us to honor the important role prayer has played in our nation’s history and our daily lives. By celebrating a National Day of Prayer, we honor our Constitution’s protection of religious expression. While I am pleased to see that President Obama will still issue a proclamation recognizing this year’s National Day of Prayer, I hope that he will direct the Justice Department to appeal this troubling ruling. It violates both well-established legal precedent and the spirit of the principles on which our nation was founded.”
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Republican Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also criticized the decision.
“To many American families, prayer is part of their everyday life,” Smith said. “It is regrettable that a federal judge has called the simple national recognition of prayer — which imposes no duties or burdens on any American — unconstitutional. The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon. What’s next? Declaring the federal holiday for Christmas unconstitutional?”
“The Justice Department should immediately appeal this decision,” Smith added. “And for those Americans whose beliefs lead them to pray, I assure you that Congress will do everything in its power to protect the National Day of Prayer.”
Congress permanently established an annual National Day of Prayer in 1952, and in 1988 the traditional date for the issuance of the presidential proclamation was set as the first Thursday in May.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) also noted outrage over the ludicrous decision.
“This decision is outrageous and unbelievable,” Price said. “What a great demonstration of how badly we need federal judges who respect the meaning of the Constitution.”
“The National Day of Prayer does not establish religion or force anyone to engage in prayer," Price stated. "It is simply a reminder of the importance that prayer has played in the lives of Americans and in the foundation of our principles. Americans have observed days of prayer going back to the time of the Founders, and service was routinely held in the Capitol. The National Day of Prayer is fully in keeping with the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. I call on President Obama and the Department of Justice to actively, visibly, and aggressively appeal this ruling.”
UPDATED 12:03 pm