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Tilting at Windmills

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April 16, 2010

FEDERAL COURT REJECTS NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER.... There are already right-wing chain emails circulating about this, so let's set the record straight.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a congressionally-mandated "holiday" called the "National Day of Prayer." The group argued that the annual occurrence undermines the separation of church and state. Late yesterday, a federal court in Wisconsin agreed.

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.

"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."

This hardly seems radical. As "holidays" go, the official National Day of Prayer is difficult to understand. For the faithful, every day is a day of prayer, and they don't need official encouragement. For a secular government that separates church from state, the idea of a state-sanctioned day in which elected leaders encourage Americans to pray is odd, if not ridiculous.

Indeed, for all the recent talk about "big government," federal "intrusion," and getting back to American traditions in line with the Founding Fathers, conservatives should find an official annual prayer day for the nation pretty offensive. It's an entirely modern creation -- the NPD was established in 1952, and set as the first Thursday in May in 1988 -- and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days.

So, what are conservatives worked up about? First, the small-government crowd is outraged that a federal court would find an official federal prayer day problematic. (Americans need government to tell us when to pray? Only if you listen to the far-right.) Second, according to bizarre emails that you'll soon receive from your crazy relatives, the story has morphed into President Obama "cancelling" the National Day of Prayer.

For the record, the Obama White House issued a prayer-day proclamation last year, and will apparently do so again this year while the court ruling is being appealed.

That won't, however, stop the far-right freak-out. Nothing ever does.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

I pray you are right.

Posted by: Stevio on April 16, 2010 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

thank the fsm there are members of the judiciary who recognize the importance of separation of church and state.

Posted by: bkny on April 16, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

R'amen

Posted by: phil on April 16, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

The literalist "Christians" will have a collective cow over this. But, as usual, their noisy protestations mostly will be direct repudiations of their religion's namesake.


Matthew chapter 6
(Jesus speaking from the Sermon on the Mount)
5)And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6)But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Posted by: SteveT on April 16, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Conservatives,
Take a deep breath. The Supreme Court, using a strict appliance of the philosophy of Conservative Hackism, will overrule this decision anyways.

Posted by: reino on April 16, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

3,2,1....The war on prayer.Coming soon to a Fox station near you. Because you know it stops everyone from praying to their supreme being .

Posted by: john R on April 16, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

"FEDERAL COURT REJECTS NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER.... "

All I can say is THANKS BE TO GOD.

Posted by: MLJohnston on April 16, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT nails it. One of my favorite passages from the New Testament. It could be argued that the National Day of Prayer is an artifact of the anti-
Christ.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 16, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't the Muslim religion or Sharia law or both speak to prayer?

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

That won't, however, stop the far-right freak-out. Nothing ever does.

Oh, the out-freakage we'll have to endure over this!

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Good. Now if only they'd apply the same logic to states issuing documentation of certain religious ceremonies.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 16, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

You'd think if you believed in a God, you'd believe in a God who was big enough to not need governmental assistance.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on April 16, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't seem any different from "In God We Trust" and "...one nation, under God, with..." All of which are no doubt just fine with our right wing Roman Catholic Supreme Court.

Posted by: emjayay on April 16, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

The kooky corporate christians cannot accept that the cold war is over. Ths NPD is a relic of the cold war to show we are not 'godless communists.' If by chance we still had a day of 'duck and cover' i.e. hide under a desk to protect you from a nuke weapon, and it was declared unconstitutional the Repubs would 'blame Obama first' and scream about how Americans were now in greater danger of being fried.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 16, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, aren't we due some sort of natural catastrophe over this? I mean, the court ruling happened yesterday. Shouldn't the volcano under Yellowstone erupt violently right now? Shouldn't there be a tsunami or another mine explosion or a terrorist attack or kittens found in a dumpster? Especially when you add the previous post about gay people being allowed to visit their partners in the hospital.

Are not these the very hammer and chisel that God will use to sculpt our nation's ruin? Where's the 'Kaboom?' There was supposed to be an earth-shattering 'Kaboom!'

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

low-tech cyclist: You'd think if you believed in a God, you'd believe in a God who was big enough to not need governmental assistance.

Hell yeah! If our government isn't good enough to provide food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, jobs, and opportunities to our nation's disadvantaged, what makes these people think it can support someone as needy as God? Do we really want our government hand-outs to go to a murderous deity who hasn't shown up for work in 2000 years? Wouldn't that just encourage Him to stay at home, making more babies? And isn't

Or what about a government takeover of our nation's churches? Maybe they should all be government-run, like schools and stuff. I'd be good with that.

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

My prayers go out to the poor nontheist soul at the FFR who has to view e-mail messages. Anyone care to wager on a few "isolated instances" of death threats from the good Christian crowd?

Of course this is all Carters fault, since he appointed the Judge Crabb. I'm sure all the good Christians will pounce on the name and mock her somehow.

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

flyonthewall said:
Doesn't the Muslim religion or Sharia law or both speak to prayer?

From Wikipedia:

Salat (Arabic: صلاة‎; pl. ṣalawāt) is the name given to the formal prayer of Islam. Its supreme importance for Muslims is indicated by its status as one of the paradigmatic Five Pillars of Sunni Islam and of the Ten Practices of the Religion of Shi'a Islam. Salah is a ritual prayer, having prescribed conditions, a prescribed procedure, and prescribed times.
Performing salah is obligatory on all adult Muslims, with a few dispensations for those for whom it would be difficult.

I've always suspected that the right-wing "Christians" secretly envy the power of Muslim clerics to make their religion mandatory. I'm sure they believe that if they just had the power to execute a few blasphemers and non-believers that they could shape the U.S. into a little corner of heaven here on Earth.


Posted by: SteveT on April 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

For the record, the Obama White House issued a prayer-day proclamation last year, and will apparently do so again this year while the court ruling is being appealed.

Yeah, but that doesn't count cause Obamanation let teh gays into our whitehouse.

Sir my message is simple...naggers, jews, HOMOsexuals, mexicans, a-rabs and all different sorts of chinks stink, and I hate 'em!

We want our country back!

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 16, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

but what about my constitutional right to force others to believe in my religion? or at least make them act like they do?

Posted by: me;llowjohn on April 16, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks SteveT, just as I thought. In viewing the FFR website, it seems a case from the past that have been settled in favor of FFR still got ignored. Case in point Good Friday being recognized by the City of Milwaukee as a "holiday", yet case settled in 1996.

http://www.ffrf.org/news/releases/ffrf-insists-milwaukee/

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I'm trying to get this story to post/share on FB but when I hit the "share" link and choose FB, it tries to post the story about the Michigan militias. Anyone know how to get WM to work with FB? I really want to piss off my "christian" friends.

Posted by: Lori on April 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't the volcano under Yellowstone erupt violently right now?

Hush! Not until I get my July trip in! It's been a long winter and I'm really looking forward to this!

All these public-praying people remind me of the woman I saw in the loud American flag jacket the other day. Can they never practice their piety or patriotism without telling the world about it? I know there's a Biblical passage warning people against issuing press releases when they pray. Does no one on the right follow it?

BTW, the national day of prayer "cancellation" outrage (yes, the story on the right is that Obama and Clinton both "cancelled" it) is going around in an email that also depicts Obama removing his shoes before entering some mosque or other. This is seen as proof that he fucking hates Christians and wants them all to have large tax bills and plugs pulled on their grandmas while going all gunless. "Red-blooded" Americans are urged to "resist" this.

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop, everyone knows that the best carpets in the world come from the Middle East. And the best place to experience one of these carpets is by taking off your shoes in a mosque, where they keep them.

On the other hand, everyone also knows that Obama is a green-blooded Kenyan. From Kenya.

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

chren, he has no business going to the Middle East at all, unless he's making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and we all know he's not about to do that unless it's a photo op to try to fake us into thinking he doesn't really want Iran to destroy Israel. And since we know he does, we won't be fooled.

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Although I don’t have a bevy of teabags hanging from a straw hat obstructing my view, here goes anyway… I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK. The one that clearly recognizes the appropriate division between church and state. If we want to talk real freedoms not merely the right to wave a loaded gun in a crowd, the separation of church and state is the foundation.

Posted by: Diane Rodriguez on April 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Although I don’t have a bevy of teabags hanging from a straw hat obstructing my view

Heh. Those were the least of what was obstructing that lady's view.

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Silly liberals. Every nutty thing that was put in place by right-wing religious extremists in 1952 is de facto approved by our Founding Fathers.

Don't stop, America-Jesus loves you!

Posted by: Pat Robertson on April 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lori, click Permalink, then copy the url to facebook as a link.

Posted by: reino on April 16, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

My prayers go out to the poor nontheist soul at the FFR who has to view e-mail messages. Anyone care to wager on a few "isolated instances" of death threats from the good Christian crowd?

Death threats in the hate mail are a normal occurrence for FFRF. They print some of it in their newsletter once or twice a year. As you would expect, the rants are of the low quality variety.

Posted by: Tim H on April 16, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Google apparently has a live Twitter feed now with an anti-progressive filter. Watch the shriekfest as it unfolds. We are doomed, folks... doomed.

Posted by: JTK on April 16, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

"the idea of a state-sanctioned day in which elected leaders encourage Americans to pray is odd, if not ridiculous."


It may be odd and ridiculous, but how the BLEEP can "encouragement" be against the law? Congress creates a non-binding holiday that every citizen is free to observe or ignore at their leisure...and this is something a federal judge needs to bother with?

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on April 16, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Chrenson said,

"Where's the 'Kaboom?' There was supposed to be an earth-shattering 'Kaboom!'"

It's well known that Marvin the Martian is Obama's first cousin. And a secret Moose-lim himself!!!

Posted by: Husker Blue on April 16, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

When the fundies finally realize that they've lost, and gather for their "Jim Jones" farewell koolaid party, will the coroner call it a self-inflicted rapture?

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 16, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by: Bob on April 16, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, the Obama White House issued a prayer-day proclamation last year, and will apparently do so again this year while the court ruling is being appealed.

Well that's pretty fucked up of Obama. Doesn't he understand the separation of church and state? I guess he understands that about as well as he understands privacy rights a la his DOJ claiming that the gov can look at any emails it wants without a warrant because "opened emails are not stored" and how he understands that 'not looking back' only includes top Bush officials and not whistleblowers of their crimes. What a disappointment.

Posted by: Dale on April 16, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I propose a National Day of Spellcasting.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 16, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Thanksgiving, anyone?

Posted by: anon on April 16, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to stop issuing these unconstitutional declarations.

It is every American's patriotic duty to defend separation of church and state. We need only look at what the Taliban did (or to the Salem Witch Trials) to see that religion must never be allowed to play any role in politics.

Posted by: libhomo on April 17, 2010 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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