Judge Wrongly Declares 'National Day of Prayer' Unconstitutional

Wisconsin judge should hang up her robe and take up needlepoint.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The men and women who first settled the North American continent were religious pilgrims looking for a promised land. Upon their arrival they established compacts and agreements that recognized the power and author of a Creator whom they worshiped and to whom they gave thanks for their safe arrival and survival.

American is, as the founder’s intended, a place where religious pluralism flourishes. Nevertheless, the fact that they believed there was a linkage between faith and freedom is inescapable. The Declaration of Independence, for example, makes reference to the importance “the protection of Divine Providence” played in the struggle for liberty against the tyrannical British King. 

The men who founded this country--those who wrote the documents that set forth our independence and those who established the framework for the national government--were not anti-religion nor were they irreligious. Even Thomas Jefferson, frequently depicted by historians as an unspiritual man, once wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” a phrase inscribed on the frieze that circles the interior of his memorial in Washington, D.C.

All this is being turned on its head once again, this time by a part time federal judge in Wisconsin--she is on “senior status”--who issued a ruling Friday that the presidential proclamation declaring a “National Day of Prayer” is unconstitutional as is the congressional statute that calls upon the president to issue it.

The judge who made the ruling, Barbara Crabb of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, displayed in her decision a kind of muddle-headedness that is almost beyond belief. Appointed to the bench by Jimmy Carter, she has clearly served too long, especially given the tortured legal reasoning she used to establish that the plaintiffs who brought suit in this case had the standing to move ahead in the first place.

In her March 2, 2010 order establishing that the plaintiffs--The Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc.--had standing to bring the suit, Crabb wrote:

The primary injury plaintiffs allege is the feeling of unwelcomeness and exclusion they experience as nonreligious persons because of what they view as a message from the government that it favors Americans who pray. That injury is intangible…

 Or, to put it into plain English, no one really suffers any damage but they probably did get their feelings hurt, a shockingly politically correct consideration considering the way in which she then used that to justify her ruling:

Religious freedom under the First Amendment contains two components, the right to practice one’s religion without undue interference under the free exercise clause and the right to be free from disfavor or disparagement on account of religion under the establishment clause.

No one alleges that force was used, that there was any coercion involved, or that anyone was forced to pray. Simply the mere existence of such a proclamation made the plaintiffs uncomfortable, which to my judgment is not exactly a constitutional standard validating the further exclusion of faith from the public square.

Crabb’s ruling, rather than being a vigorous or courageous defense of the first amendment guarantee of freedom of religion--as some will surely make it out to be--further debases the culture and values that made America, with all its imperfections, a great nation that is a beacon to the world. She should hang up her robe and take up needlepoint. That way, rather than hurting the country, she can only hurt herself.

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