April 16th, 2010
03:16 PM ET

Is National Prayer unconstitutional?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/04/15/wisconsin.court.prayer/story.bushprayer.gi.jpg caption="President Bush marks the National Day of Prayer in May 2008 with St. Patrick's choir." width=300 height=169]


A federal judge on Thursday struck down the federal statute that established the National Day of Prayer, ruling that it violates the constitutional ban on government-backed religion.

"[I]ts sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function," a Wisconsin judge wrote in the ruling, referring to the 1952 law that created the National Day of Prayer.

"In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience," wrote the judge, Barbara B. Crabb.

The injunction against the National Day of Prayer will not take effect until the defendants in the case, President Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, have exhausted their appeals, the decision said.

The Obama administration said in a Twitter message on Thursday that Obama intends to recognize this year's National Day of Prayer, which is May 6.

So what do you think? We want to hear from you. Can prayer be unconstitutional?

And don't miss Anderson's conversation on the subject with Christopher Hitchens and Tony Perkins tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. David Olmos

    I think it should be up to the individual not the country.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  2. Steve

    Firstly, it shouldn't matter what the average American thinks about the constitutionality of a national day of prayer. All that should matter is the law and SCOTUS precedent which states that the government should not be too entangled with religion. On a more philosophical level, faith is personal and should be kept to oneself.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  3. Connie

    Is calling for a national day of prayer establishing a religion? Probably not. It's like calling for a moment of silence. In neither case are you required to participate. There's a slippery slope that leads to Congress and the Court opening their sessions with prayer, "in God we trust," and "under God" in oaths of office. We have separation of church and state because the founding fathers couldn't agree on any one religon. A national day of prayer would have been fine with Madison and Hamilton. I think people come up with these issues because they distract us from the important issues.

    April 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  4. Annette Pounds

    Our country was founded on a Religious base. The Mayflower Compact (in it's original form) clearly shows the people's will to God and their religion. While it is important not to discriminate against one's religion or non-religion it is VERY important to remember our founding base.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  5. Tim Gibson

    We continue to pick apart our society and wonder why it is failing.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  6. Susan Kopala

    How can anything be unconstitutional if it can't be enforced? There are National days for several holidays yet no one is forced to participate. I don't see how having a National day of prayer has an adverse affect on anyone. It just must be that people with such empty lives have to find something to obsess and fight against. All Federal and Governmental offices are still open, checks can still be cashed at the bank so what is the problem? Find something worthwhile to fight against.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  7. TonyInLargo

    No it isn't, if the people want it. This is a country "...for the people, by the people and of the people". Whatever we say goes. Therefore, if the judges want to try, then we should put them to the test by observing it and see if they are going to put in jail or throw fines at everyone who steps in for the previous official to observe it. If the atheists don't want to hear it or see it, they can put on some blinders and use ear plugs.

    You can't separate man from his Creator.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  8. Kristine

    A government that can tell you to pray is a government that can force you not to pray, or mandate how you will pray. Check out the National Day of Prayer website; this is an overtly Christian organization run by James Dobson's wife in an admitted effort to establish Jesus as the God of America. The federal law establishing the National Day of Prayer required the President – it did not allow him, required him – to mandate this day whether Americans want it or not.

    Americans can pray any time, anywhere; we don't need the government shoving religion, and especially not a particular form of Christianity, down our throats.

    This ruling restored common sense and constitutionality to our laws.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm |