A federal judge in Wisconsin found the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional. The event was codified in US law after a campaign helmed by Billy Graham in 1952. In more recent years, the NDoP had pretty much been taken over by evangelical Christians to the exclusion of pretty much everyone else. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed suit and this is the result (pdf of decision, 66 pages). One of my legal buddies said this was a Big Win for the FFRF.
The nut of the decision is found at the top of page 4:
Unfortunately, § 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.
Pages 57-60 of the decision is a laundry list of news articles from (mostly) the 2008 NDoP, generally pointing out that the NDoP has pretty much become a captive of the Christian Right here in the USA. Jews, Muslims, non-Evangelical Christians, Hindus, Mormons, you name it, they’re all complaining about this. The judge remarks on page 60:
It is true that much of the controversy has been generated by events of private organizations such as the National Day of Prayer Task Force. However, government officials, including former Presidents, have sometimes aligned themselves so closely with those exclusionary groups that it becomes difficult to tell the difference between the government’s message and that of the private group.
[I think this is a comment about how closely entwined the previous administration had become with evangelicals, at least as far as this is concerned.]
And, despite all the hue and cry throughout the evangelical blogosphere that the NDoP has been “cancelled,” this decision is NOT enforced immediately (pp. 65-66):
3. Defendants are ENJOINED from enforcing 36 U.S.C. § 119. The injunction shall take effect at the conclusion of any appeals filed by defendants or the expiration of defendants’ deadline for filing an appeal, whichever is later.
I believe this judge has handed all sorts of evangelical groups a big gift in the form of ready-made fundraising appeals.