Over 30 conservative organizations are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to allow them to participate in oral arguments supporting the National Day of Prayer, with at least one group calling the Obama administration's defense of the observance “inadequate.”
In a motion filed this week, the organizations – which include Focus on the Family Action, Liberty Counsel, and slew of pro-family groups – said the brief filed by the Obama administration does rely upon, or even mention, some key rulings by the court that they say would foreclose any possibility that plaintiffs have standing to bring Establishment Clause suits.
“Our Brief, by contrast, exhaustively discusses and examines these cases, shows that they control the instant case, and that a straightforward application of their rule requires dismissal of the instant case for lack of standing,” the groups stated.
In short, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the brief filed by Obama's Justice Department does not go far enough in defending the National Day of Prayer.
“The President's attorneys failed to cite any of the key cases that would require immediate dismissal of this lawsuit because the plaintiffs lack standing to bring it," said Perkins, whose group is among those who filed the motion.
Ken Klukowski, director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for FRC's amicus brief in the case, meanwhile, said the hope of the organizations is that the court “recognize that the American people deserve and expect their elected leaders to vigorously defend our constitutional right to religious freedom.”
"The courts cannot ban free religious expression by citizens who participate in the NDP because such participation is not imposed,” he stated.
“Neither the Constitution nor the NDP itself require any religious activity by anyone, anywhere. So, if permitted, we intend to present a convincing case that this is a perfect example of a harassing lawsuit that should have been dismissed at the outset," concluded Klukowski.
This past April, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down a federal statute creating the "National Day of Prayer," concluding that it connotes endorsement and encouragement of a particular religious exercise.
"One might argue that the National Day of Prayer does not violate the establishment clause because it does not endorse any one religion,” she stated. “Unfortunately, that does not cure the problem. Although adherents of many religions 'turn to God in prayer,' not all of them do."
Still, while the National Day of Prayer was ruled unconstitutional, Crabb made clear that religious groups are free to organize prayer events and the U.S. president also remains free to discuss his own views on prayer.
The contested lawsuit was originally filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in October 2008.