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A court should reject arguments from those who seek “relentless extirpation” of any reference to religion in public life, according to a brief submitted in opposition to a Wisconsin lawsuit that challenges the National Day of Prayer.
The lawsuit was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which asserted the law that sets the first Thursday in May as “National Day of Prayer” should be declared in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The case pending in a Wisconsin court now, however, has drawn the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice, the ACLJ, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking for the case to be dismissed.
The ACLJ’s filing includes a list 60 pages long of presidential and other proclamations recognizing America’s need for a “day of prayer” and said the concept was adopted even as the U.S. was being created as a nation.
“At the end of the years 1777, 1781 and 1782 the Continental Congress recommended that the states set apart a day for prayer and thanksgiving. At the Constitutional Convention itself, Benjamin Franklin urged that ‘prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business,” the ACLJ argued.
It was George Washington who offered the first presidential proclamation urging a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” He said “it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience,” the filing argued.
“This is another twisted legal attempt to remove prayer from public life,” said the ACLJ’s director, Jay Sekulow. “The fact is that a day set aside for prayer for the country is a time-honored tradition woven into the very fabric of our nation.
“From the time of our Founding Fathers to the present day, such proclamations and observances reflects the nation’s rich history. The courts have been clear on this issue: there is no constitutional crisis here. We’re hopeful that the court will take the only action appropriate in this case and dismiss this lawsuit,” he said.
The brief said the U.S. Supreme Court already has addressed the dispute, too.
“In ‘Marsh v. Chambers,’ the United States Supreme Court conducted a searching examination of the nation’s history when considering a challenge to the Nebraska state legislature’s practice of opening its session with prayer by a paid chaplain. Upholding the practice, the court held that ‘historical evidence sheds light not only on what the draftsmen intended the Establishment Clause to mean, but also on how they thought that Clause applied to the practice authorized by the First Congress – their actions reveal their intent.'”
In its brief filed with the court in Madison, Wis., the ACLJ represents itself and 31 members of the 111th Congress, including Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus.
Other members of Congress represented are Robert B. Aderholt, Michele Bachmann, Roscoe G. Bartlett, John A. Boehner, John Boozman, Eric Cantor, K. Michael Conaway, Mary Fallin, Virginia Foxx, Trent Franks, Scott Garrett, Louie Gohmert, Wally Herger, Peter Hoekstra, Walter B. Jones, Jim Jordan, Doug Lamborn, Thaddeus G. McCotter, Patrick T. McHenry, Mike McIntyre, Jeff Miller, Sue Wilkins Myrick, Randy Neugebauer, Pete Olson, Mike Pence, Joseph R. Pitts, Heath Shuler, Adrian Smith, Lamar Smith and Joe Wilson.
“Even the drafter of the First Amendment, James Madison, issued four proclamations in the early 1800’s calling the nation to a day of prayer,” the ACLJ noted.
The ACLJ contends that the “strategy to purge all religious observances and references from American public life must not be indulged.”
WND columnist Jonathan Falwell addressed the concerns in a column.
“The problem with this lawsuit, as I see it, is that America has a rich history of honoring God. From our nation’s very first inaugural address by George Washington – in which he requested that the Bible be opened to Deuteronomy chapter 28 – we see the tradition of publicly paying tribute to God,” he wrote.
“George Washington understood that this nation is a gift from the Sovereign God, and he recognized the need for the nation to honor Him. ‘It is the duty of all nations,’ Washington said, ‘to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will,'” Falwell wrote.
“We must fight to preserve our history, my friends, because there are those who want to ignore and destroy it,” he said.