As the 2012 observance of the National Day of Prayer has come and gone, one secularist group continues to file suits against various city and state governments for their involvement in the event.
Freedom From Religion Foundation has several suits going through the courts, some dating back to November 2008 and others filed recently against cities in Florida, Texas and Arkansas.
Brett Harvey, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, told The Christian Post that his organization vows to fight the legal efforts of FFRF.
"In recent years the Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed several lawsuits challenging the National Day of Prayer and similar public proclamations," said Harvey. "In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed their lawsuit challenging both the federal law creating the National Day of Prayer and President Obama's prayer proclamation."
Harvey explained that these efforts by the FFRF are continued even after the group loses a court case, using as an example the organization's suit against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.
"The United States District Court for Arizona threw out their lawsuit against Arizona governor's announcement of the Arizona Day of Prayer," said Harvey. "Despite being thrown out of federal court, in January 2012, Freedom From Religion Foundation again sued Governor Brewer in state court."
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, told CP that her organization persists in these efforts because of their belief that the annual prayer day is unconstitutional.
"Under our godless and secular constitution, public officials have no right or power to exhort citizens to pray, much less to set aside an entire day for prayer and even give citizens a laundry list about what to pray about," Gaylor argued.
In response to the National Day of Prayer, many secular and atheist groups observed a "National Day of Reason." Gaylor said that if such an event were approved by Congress, it would, unlike its counterpart the National Day of Prayer, be constitutional.
"Congress has not mandated a national day for reason. That has been done by private groups," said Gaylor, who contrasted the two observances. "However, it would be fully constitutional for Congress to mandate a National Day of Reason, whereas it is not constitutional to mandate a day for prayer."
In response to the claim that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, Harvey noted that the United States has a long history of elected officials who have delivered proclamations for national prayer, going all the way back to President George Washington.
"The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged that presidential proclamations of thanksgiving and prayer, including the National Day of Prayer, are indeed a part of our culture and tradition and are in no way a violation of the Constitution," said Harvey.
"It is both lawful and wise for public officials to respect and cherish our religious heritage, and to encourage all Americans to invoke God's protection and guidance over our nation."
The National Day of Prayer was observed on Thursday, May 3, by cities and state governments across the country.