Freedom From Religion Foundation

Despite Atheists' Efforts, National Day Of Prayer Celebrations Go On Stronger Than Ever

Thursday, May 5, is the 60th annual National Day of Prayer observance. This year's theme comes from from Psalm 91: "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Earlier this month, in a case in which The Family Foundation filed an amicus brief, the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the right of Americans (see Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today) to continue this observation of God's involvement in "the affairs of men," as Benjamin Franklin so aptly put it at the Constitutional Convention more than 220 years ago. A nefarious group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the suit.

In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a declaration that every president must proclaim a National Day of Prayer on the day of his choosing. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan took President Truman's declaration one step further and set the first Thursday of May as the official National Day of Prayer. Since then, Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have marked the day with a White House observance and all presidents have issued commemorative proclamations. Many years, a special prayer service is held in the East Room.

At noon on May 5, many localities around Virginia and the nation will hold observances with state and local officials, pastors and ministry leaders. Click here to find an observance in your area at the National Day of Prayer's web site. Please be careful to note the specific details and locations of each event. Also, many churches are open for prayer services at noon and throughout the day. You may also click here to learn more about the 7 x 7 Campaign to pray for the seven centers of power in our country seven days a week.

If you cannot attend an observance, please consider taking some time out of your day to specifically pray for our nation, President Obama, Governor McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bolling, Attorney General Cuccinelli, U.S. Senators Warner and Webb, your congressman, your state senator and delegate, as well your local elected leaders. Each of these people has a powerful effect on the lives of Virginians.

Bigots 1, Chesapeake 0

We learned today that the Chesapeake City Council caved to the bullying tactics of the ACLU and the so-called "Freedom From Religion Foundation" and changed their prayer policy to censor "sectarian" prayers, or prayers in Jesus name. This is yet another disappointing case of overreacting to the threats of anti-religious bigots by an elected body that simply does not understand the law. According to the most recent federal appellate court that has reviewed all the case law in this area, neither the Supreme Court or any appellate court has mandated "non-sectarian" prayer at public meetings. It is another success case for the ACLU's strategy of misleading the public on what the courts actually say.

Religious liberty loses again.

Welcome To Chesapeake, ACLU

Well, that didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after The Family Foundation and the Alliance Defense Fund provided legal information and a model prayer policy to city officials in Chesapeake, the ACLU of Virginia sent their own "opinion." 

And guess what — they are against public prayer!

Shocking, isn't? 

Using the same tired — and incorrect — arguments other ACLU chapters have used in losing court cases, the ACLU of Virginia is joining the "Freedom From Religion Foundation" in warning Chesapeake officials against praying at council meetings. 

The only problem is they are dead wrong. As usual.

We are actually thrilled to see the ACLU join the battle. After all, why wouldn't we want an organization that no reasonable, thoughtful person pays any attention to in the fight? I mean seriously, the more they talk, the more we're likely to win. 

But, for our friends at the ACLU, I'm going to write this slowly so even they can comprehend it: Sandra Day O'Conner who wrote the Turner v. Fredericksburg opinion the ACLU claims requires non-sectarian prayers, actually said in that opinion:

"We need not decide whether the Establishment Clause compelled the Council to adopt their legislative prayer policy because the Establishment Clause does not absolutely dictate the form of legislative prayer." 

Again, in the Pelphrey case which the ACLU lost badly using the same arguments, the Eleventh Circuit dismisses their claim that the U.S. Supreme Court in Marsh requires non-sectarian prayers saying:

"Although it upheld the policy of the [Fredericksburg City] Council, the Fourth Circuit expressly declined to hold that Marsh required a policy of nondenominational prayers."

Now, I know that quoting the actual words of the judges involved isn't really fair to the ACLU. After all, they clearly don't care what the courts actually say. But for everyone else, its simple. Government bodies have opened meetings with prayer since the beginning of the Republic and they can continue doing so, even including things like "God" and "Jesus" in the prayers.

This is getting fun.

Atheist-Agnostic Group Threatens Chesapeake City Council Over Prayer

Last week, we informed the public about several threats to religious liberty taking place around the nation. A group calling itself the Freedom From Religion Foundation is pursuing several lawsuits around the country to ban public signs of faith and religious heritage, including one to prohibit the words "In God We Trust" from being inscribed in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. (See conservative writer Peter Heck, whose column we post in the News Stand occasionally, debate this organization's president, here.) Today, we learned that this organization is making threats in Virginia. The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported earlier this week that this organization of self-proclaimed "atheists and agnostics" threatened the city of Chesapeake with legal action should it continue to open its city council meetings in prayer. As usual, it has misrepresented case law in making its threat — in particular, the Fourth Circuit Court's infamous Fredericksburg decision (see its long-winded news release).

When we heard about the case this morning, we immediately contacted our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF already is at work on a letter and model policy for the city council so that it will be able to fight back against the threatened lawsuit. We hope to have the letter and model policy to the city council and mayor today or tomorrow.

A few years ago, The Family Foundation partnered with ADF to send model prayer policies to every local government body in Virginia so that they would be aware of what the courts deem as appropriate prayers at government meetings. There are very specific guidelines for governing bodies to follow in their prayer policies — and none require so-called "non-sectarian" prayers as suggested by Freedom From Religion.

We will stay on top of this and keep you posted on this case. We will work to inform the Chesapeake City Council of its rights and fight this, and all threats, to religious liberty in the commonwealth.