US District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religion.
She issued a 66-page decision and enjoined President Obama from issuing an executive order calling for the celebration of a National Day of Prayer.
The National Day of Prayer was first authorized by Congress in 1952. Since 1988, the date has been set as the first Thursday in May.
The judge stayed her own injunction pending the resolution of any appeals.
“I understand that many may disagree with [my] conclusion and some may even view it as critical of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate,” Judge Crabb wrote.
“A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant, or undeserving of dissemination,” she said. “Rather it is part of the effort to carry out the Founders’ plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society.”
The action came as a result of a lawsuit filed by members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin group founded in 1976. The group is pledged to promote the concept of separation of church and state. It also seeks to educate the public on matters of “nontheism.”
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, praised Judge Crabb’s ruling.