The Family Foundation today signed onto an amicus brief (see brief) by Liberty Institute filed in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the National Day of Prayer in Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Obama (see news release). Those represented in the brief in addition to The Family Foundation include Dr. James Dobson, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family Action (CitizenLink), the American Civil Rights Union, Let Freedom Ring, and Liberty Counsel, as well as 27 other state family policy councils. On April 15, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the federal government's observation of prayer is unconstitutional (see Christian Post), despite numerous rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that protect long-standing traditions of religious invocations. Today's brief argues that not only is the National Day of Prayer constitutional, but that Judge Crabb's ruling establishes active hostility to religion and must be reversed.
When Congress passed a statute in 1952 calling for the president to issue a proclamation designating the National Day of Prayer, it memorialized the virtually unbroken tradition of presidents from Washington to Truman, each of whom designated a day of prayer.
In May, The Family Foundation also joined an amicus brief in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in another important religious liberty case, Joyner v. Forsyth County (N.C.). The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the American Civil Liberty Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina's Forsyth County Board of Supervisors stating:
[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.
It is clear that attacks on our first freedom, the right of conscience, seem to be coming every day. The National Day of Prayer has been recognized by presidents of both parties and by Congress for decades and prayer has been part of our national character since its founding. It is appalling that a single judge can undermine that longstanding tradition but, unfortunately, the courts have a mixed record at best on protecting our First Amendment rights.
The Family Foundation has been, and always will be, a voice for religious freedom in our commonwealth. The words of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom — that are the foundation for the tradition of religious liberty in our nation and the precursor to the First Amendment — must be preserved and protected. That is a legacy that we have inherited and we must defend.