Day of prayer ruling raises debate

Published 9:33 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

The National Day of Prayer is “unconstitutional.” That headline streaming across the news cycle on Friday stemmed from a ruling issued by a federal judge in Wisconsin, who declared the annual event violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion.

And within hours of the ruling, opinions on both sides of the debate were running rampant.

At the heart of the debate are two issues which we Americans passionately defend: our freedom of speech and, for many of us, our faith and our religion.

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In issuing her voluminous ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb acknowledged she would draw criticism from those who disagreed with her conclusion and that some “may even view it as critical of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate.” Ultimately, she said, this is not “a judgment on the value of prayer or the millions of Americans who believe in its power.”

However, we suspect those who do believe in just that power will see the ruling quite differently. Citing the religious beliefs that guided our Founding Fathers, who did not want to live without faith but simply without a government that imposed its religion and its faith on its people, many Americans will object to Crabb’s ruling regarding a celebration of a National Day of Prayer.

Ultimately, we suspect the Supreme Court will decide this case.

In the meantime, we believe that millions of Americans will continue to mark the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer – for our nation, its leaders, and its people – with, or without, a presidential sanction.

After all, the courts cannot rule what lies in our hearts.