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Court Throws Out Atheist Suit Against Ariz. 'Day of Prayer'

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By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
June 13, 2013|6:22 pm

A three-judge panel from an appellate court decided to throw out a lawsuit against Arizona's "Day of Prayer" proclamations over the belief that the plaintiffs lacked standing.

Judges from the Arizona Court of Appeals Division One unanimously concluded Tuesday that the suit advanced by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation was invalid.

Writing for the panel, Judge Donn Kessler said the offended party could not show how they were specifically harmed by the Day of Prayer Proclamations issued by Governor Jan Brewer.

Furthermore, noted Kessler, none of the plaintiffs appear to have been Arizona taxpayers, which jeopardized their claim that Brewer's usage of taxpayer dollars to write up and issue the proclamations caused them harm.

"The proclamations are not a direct attack on the [challengers'] specific belief systems," wrote Kessler in the case, known in court documents as Freedom v. Brewer.

"Indeed, there is no allegation regarding how the [challengers] even learned about the proclamations or that the alleged harm to them was anything more than a general feeling of second-class citizenship and outside status."

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In a statement, Gov. Brewer expressed gratitude to the Ariz. Court for "rejecting this needless legal challenge to an American custom and tradition."

"For centuries, Americans of every race, creed and color have voluntarily come together to embrace a founding freedom and pray for wisdom and strength," said Brewer. "This is an American tradition, and one I've been proud to commemorate each year I've been Governor by proclaiming an Arizona Day of Prayer."

For the past couple of years, the FFRF has attempted to get Arizona's Day of Prayer Proclamations declared unconstitutional.

In December 2011, Judge Roslyn Silver of the U.S. District Court of Arizona dismissed a lawsuit from the FFRF, stating that the group lacked the right to sue.

Less than a month later, FFRF filed a new lawsuit against the Arizona government over the prayer proclamations. In contrast to the one from 2011, this new suit challenged Brewer specifically on the state constitution, rather than combining federal and state claims.

"Individuals have a right to say as they wish and to have free exercise," said Patrick Elliot, staff attorney for FFRF, in an earlier interview with The Christian Post. "However, the government doesn't have the same right to encourage or exhort citizens to take on religious practice. And that's what this case is about."

Marc Victor, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs represented in Freedom v. Brewer, told Arizona Daily Sun that there might be an appeal sent to the Arizona Supreme Court.

 

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