Attorney General Dustin McDaniel believes Congress is within its constitutional rights to order the president to declare a National Day of Prayer each year. A federal court has ruled otherwise. McDaniel and others don't intend to let a court stand in the way of this annual government establishment of religion.
To read McDaniel's news release on his intervention in this lawsuit, you'd think people have no ability to pray freely unless a presidential declaration is issued.
Here's some background on this case. As the judge who decided it said, if Congress wanted to recognize the country's deep religious traditions, it could declare a day of National Religious Freedom without promoting a specific religious practice.
The other side of this coin is that, the more Congress and craven politicians proselytize with rote exercises that have the depth and meaning of flag lapel pins, the more they cheapen religion.
LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked a federal appeals court today to uphold a federal law that directs the president to annually declare a National Day of Prayer.
McDaniel and fellow attorneys general from across the country urged the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an amicus brief filed today to overturn a lower-court ruling that the law violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
McDaniel disagrees with a federal judge’s decision that said a law directing the president to proclaim the first Thursday in May as National Day of Prayer was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
“Our nation and this state were shaped by faithful men and women who valued prayer,” McDaniel said. “Prayer has an important role in American history, and public recognition of that role is not the same as endorsing a particular religion.”
Presidents have declared a National Day of Prayer each year since 1952. State governors frequently issue their own Day of Prayer proclamations, with all 50 governors doing so in 2008.
McDaniel and the other attorneys general argued that the lower-court ruling jeopardizes the ability of states to acknowledge a Day of Prayer or to issue proclamations on other holidays that recognize the nation’s religious heritage.
The attorneys general said the courts have long upheld the constitutionality of public prayers like those offered at presidential inaugurations or each session of Congress. The National Day of Prayer is within precedent set by the courts related to public prayer. The law only designates a day where prayers may be offered by anyone who chooses to pray, but requires no one to participate in religious activity.
“Since this country’s founding, presidents have proclaimed days for prayer and thanksgiving. Likewise, in Arkansas, we want our governors to have the authority to recognize days important to our heritage,” McDaniel said. “Countless Arkansans pray every day, not just on a designated prayer day. I’m hopeful that the appellate court will rule that it is appropriate to acknowledge that legacy.”
The case is Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., et al., v. President Barack Obama, et al., No. 10-1973.