From TfK’s “Duh!” department, we learn via PZ that a federal judge did the only sensible thing possible about the National Day of Prayer. In a suit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation:

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

“In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray,” Crabb wrote.

I mean… I mean yeah. Duh. Of course. I mentioned this to my fiancée, and she said, “I’m surprised that didn’t happen long ago.”

I can wrap my head around having “in God we trust” on money, and accept that it’s just such a trivial and de minimis infringement of antidisestablishmentarianism as to not make any difference. And one can just remain silent for the line about God Congress stupidly added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the ’50s.

But for the federal government to declare that one day be set aside for prayer? No.

Various wankers (Jay Sekulow, I’m looking at you) are up in arms over this, claiming that it’s an anti-religion ruling that ignores bunches of history or whatever, but the judge’s ruling seems sensible and comprehensive:

Crabb wrote that her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer. She noted government involvement in prayer may be constitutional if the conduct serves a “significant secular purpose” and doesn’t amount to a call for religious action. But the National Day of Prayer crosses that line, she wrote.

“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,” she wrote. “In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”

I don’t think I’ve ever prayed, certainly not in any formal or believing sense. It’s not what I do, not what I believe in. And when the government declares that a day be set aside to honor a religious practice I adhere to, it makes me an outsider. And that’s why we have a First Amendment.

So to Jay Sekulow and the 31 members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus who filed an amicus brief begging that the government validate your religious beliefs, I say this: Pray all you want. Pray at home, and in your cars, and in your office. Pray on street corners and say grace in restaurants. But don’t use your power as government officials to tell me whether I should or shouldn’t pray. That’s not why you were elected, Scott Garrett. It’s not why my taxes pay your salary, Virginia Foxx. Had you prevailed, Patrick T. McHenry, it would have taken away my liberty. And when you say this is about defending American traditions, Joe Wilson, you are a liar. Because this “tradition” goes back to Ronald Reagan, while separation of Church and State goes back to George Washington.

Thank you to FFRF for doing the right thing. Go thou and do likewise.


  1. #1 benjdm
    April 16, 2010

    I can wrap my head around having “in God we trust” on money

    What about having “In God We Trust” as the National Motto? That seems particularly egregious to me.

  2. #2 Emily
    April 16, 2010

    it’s just such a trivial and de minimis infringement of antidisestablishmentarianism

    Don’t you mean an infringement of disestablishmentarianism and an instance of antidisestablishmentarianism?

  3. #3 scripto
    April 16, 2010

    Well, that sucks. I find that I only pray to the Great Accommodator when directed to by the federal government.

  4. #4 Marion Delgado
    April 17, 2010

    I don’t think we should ignore the Pledge of Allegiance. For several reasons. It’s ceremonial, it’s a pledge of allegiance, it’s as bad as school prayer, or worse.

    My solution is to push for a similar law – changing it to “under Goddess.” and say that will be for a period of 60 years – since the original Pledge was changed about that long ago. Then the changes will be revisited, in 2070.

    Since it’s not a violation of the 1st amendment, the religious right won’t care which deity or higher power is invoked – or about any ramifications of Wicca or Catholic Maryolatry or Gaian environmentalism. Because we’re not making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

    Still, if they surprise me and protest, we can say, well, let’s just take all god references out, is that fair?

    I realize some atheists would not support this, but I’d enjoy campaigning for it. And getting teachers to do it – does the Government fine you for changing the God word in the Pledge?

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