Shirley Dobson Dismissed from Lawsuit against National Prayer

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed all claims against Shirley Dobson, the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, in a lawsuit challenging the National Day of Prayer.

Shirley Dobson is chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and was among the names listed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a lawsuit filed in October 2008.

"Prayer proclamations are a long-established and cherished American tradition going back to the Founding Fathers," said Alliance Defense Fund senior legal counsel Joel Oster.

ADF attorneys represented Dobson.

"The lawsuit against Mrs. Dobson was based on the ridiculous argument that a private citizen can violate the law by praying, and it is just another example of one radical organization's allergic reaction to anything involving God," Oster continued. "FFRF is showcasing to America that its true agenda is not to just silence the government, but private citizens, as well."

FFRF argues that the Constitution was "written to be a godless document" and challenged the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer Proclamation by the U.S. president. The Wisconsin-based group maintains that government-issued proclamations encouraging citizens to pray are unconstitutional.

Besides Dobson, the FFRF lawsuit also targets President Barack Obama. The case against the president is still ongoing. The court has stated, however, that it cannot stop future presidential prayer proclamations from being issued.

The current lawsuit is being heard by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. It was filed during the last administration but is now named Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama.

The annual prayer event was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1983, the National Day of Prayer Task Force was founded to express the Judeo-Christian view. Shirley Dobson became chairman of the NDP Task Force in 1991 and has held the position ever since. Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ with her husband Bill Bright, was the NDP Task Force's first chairman, and remains the co-chairman.

The next National Day of Prayer is scheduled for May 6, 2010.

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