Indiana has joined the fight to reverse the holding by U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin that the federal law providing for a National Day of Prayer violates the Establishment Clause.
The amicus brief before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, authored by the Texas Attorney General and others, argues the ruling calls into question the traditional state practice of issuing proclamations acknowledging their residents may choose to pray together during difficult times, and state proclamations issued in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer.
The brief also says that providing for a day of prayer is constitutional because the law doesn’t require the engagement in any religious activity of any kind by any person or governmental body. It also calls into question whether the ruling by the Wisconsin District Court finds Memorial Day to be unconstitutional as well because it was originally enacted as a day for people to pray for peace. The National Day of Prayer statute was enacted in 1952.
Indiana is one of 29 states that signed the Texas amicus brief. Other nearby state signers include Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.
The suit was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation – a Madison, Wisc.-based group working for separation of church and state – against President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, challenging the authority of the president to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer. Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled in April that 36 U.S.C. Section 119 is unconstitutional.
“I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate,” she wrote in the opinion. “A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination. Rather, it is part of the effort to ‘carry out the Founders' plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 882 (O'Connor, J., concurring).’”
Oral arguments in the appeal have not been set, according to the court docket.