Madison, Wis. A federal lawsuit filed by the nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics is challenging the state and national sanctioned "Day of Prayer," claiming that this "creates a hostile environment for nonbelievers" making them "political outsiders."
In addition to suing Pres. George W. Bush, the Freedom From Religion Foundation's (FFRF) lawsuit also names press secretary, Dana Perino, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, one of 50 governors to also issue prayer proclamations.
Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is also named in the lawsuit. The foundation claims the Task Force is too closely tied to the religious organization Focus on the Family.
While the lawsuit, filed Oct. 3, discusses specific prayer declarations and the efforts of the National Day of Prayer Task Force (headed by Shirley Dobson), the American Center for Law and Justice states on its website that this lawsuit presents a broad attack on the National Day of Prayer itself.
ACLJ states that the lawsuit seeks a court declaration that the federal statute recognizing the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and that specific prayer proclamations issued by President Bush and the Governor of Wisconsin are unconstitutional.
In a separate lawsuit, filed Nov. 12, the FFRF is suing Colorado Gov. Jim Ritter Jr., for showing governmental preference for religion in issuing National Day of Prayer proclamations in tandem with the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force.
Evan Dreyer, Gov. Ritter's spokesman said that the governor feels confident there's no merit to the lawsuit according to the Colorado Gazette.
"This is a proclamation," he added. "It's not an executive order, not a statute and doesn't carry the force of law. It doesn't violate the state constitution. Precedent is in our favor."
The group has filed several lawsuits over the years. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a suit filed by FFRF against President Bush's faith-based initiative.
Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation and chief counsel of the Liberty Legal Institute, called the lawsuits a waste of time.
'It shows the hostility to religion that some have," he told Family News in Focus. They "will even try to pervert our history … in order to bring in their society, which is one where religious freedom is cleansed from society."
The National Day of Prayer is held each year on the first Thursday in May. The national proclamation issued this year asked God's continued guidance, comfort, and protection on our country and called for Americans to observe the day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
National Day of Prayer