Colorado judge rejects National Day of Prayer challenge

DENVER, Colo. — A Denver district court ruled that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's support for the National Day of Prayer does not violate the Constitution.

Judge R. Michael Mullins dismissed the case October 28 stating that a governor's proclamation does not encourage someone to pray or not to pray. "That issue is left up to the individual," Mullins wrote.

"The primary message that the proclamation sends, as perceived by the objective observer, is that the Governor's Office acknowledges the right of an individual to pray and worship, the National Day of Prayer and the events held by the National Day of Prayer Task Force at the Capitol," Judge Mullins wrote in the order. "It does not insist or encourage anyone to pray or not pray. That issue is left up to the individual."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FRF) sued Gov. Bill Ritter and the state of Colorado in 2008, claiming that the governor's proclamation of the National Day of Prayer violates the Constitution.

In April of this year, a Wisconsin federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. FRF had sued the Bush and Obama administrations in an effort to block presidential proclamations for the day of prayer.

Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, was also named in the lawsuit against the White House administrations. The foundation claims the Task Force is too closely tied to the religious organization Focus on the Family. The Obama administration has appealed that ruling.

Evan Dreyer, Gov. Ritter's spokesman had said that the governor felt confident that there was no merit to the lawsuit according to the Colorado Gazette. He stated that it is a proclamation. "It's not an executive order, not a statute and doesn't carry the force of law," he added. "It doesn't violate the state constitution."

Governors across the county issue similar proclamations for the National Day of Prayer held each year on the first Thursday in May.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Madison, Wis.-based FRF told the Chicago Tribune that the foundation will likely appeal the ruling.

Attorney General John Suthers praised the ruling.

"This order affirms the governor's longstanding practice of acknowledging the National Day of Prayer as well as the process the governor uses to issue other proclamations," Suthers said in a written statement. "I was pleased to see the judge's well reasoned and persuasive order upholding this commonplace practice."


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