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National Day of Prayer is Constitutional

National Day of Prayer is the first Thursday in May
Photo by Kenn Zuniga
National Day of Prayer is the first Thursday in May

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a lawsuit last week claiming that the President’s National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, claims that the day violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. ”

The appellate court ruled that, starting with President George Washington’s proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day, Congress has requested Presidents to call on citizens to pray. In their ruling, the court wrote: “Section 119 imposes duties on the President alone. It does not require any private person to do anything—or for that matter to take any action in response to what the President proclaims. ”

Last July, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott led a multi-state coalition of 29 attorneys general in defending the annual National Day of Prayer.

“Last week’s ruling was an important victory for religious liberties,” Abbott said in a news release.

The National Day of Prayer statute was established by Congress in 1952 and, since then, presidents have issued proclamations that designate a single day each year as the National Day of Prayer. The current federal statute has named the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.