Sunday, April 18, 2010

Religious Liberty under Siege

Religious Liberty Under Siege.

It seems wherever we look our religious liberty is under attack. Yes, under attack. Yes, in this land we call America. It seems as though not a single day goes by that not yet another volley is hurled at our religious freedoms. While we might expect these attacks to come from those who despise our religious liberties, it is especially disconcerting when they come from those entrusted with protecting our freedoms--the judiciary. District Court Judge Crabb's ruling of the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional--is a ruling of 'freedom from religion', not 'freedom of religion'. Not only is religious liberty under siege, our constitution is.

See the story of Judge Crabb's ruling below, and then see a commentary from Tony Perkins with FRC.

Judge: Natl Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional
April 15, 2010 - 4:49 PM | by: Mike Levine

The National Day of Prayer, honored in the United States for more than a half-century, is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled.

In a 66-page opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the holiday violates the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment, which creates a separation of church and state.

"I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray," Crabb said in her opinion. "That is unfortunate. 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."

The opinion comes in a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of self-described "atheists" and "agnostics."

Crabb said her ruling is based on "relevant case law," and it does not prevent religious groups from organizing prayer services or prevent the President from discussing his views on prayer.

"The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute," Crabb said.

The Justice Department would not say whether it expects to appeal Crabb's ruling.

"We are reviewing the court's decision," a Justice Department spokesman said.

Within hours of the ruling, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee urged the Justice Department to "immediately" file an appeal.

"The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., said in a statement. "What’s next? Declaring the federal holiday for Christmas unconstitutional?"

Crabb said the ruling would not have any effect until any appeals are exhausted.

She insisted her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer.

"No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer," Crabb said in her opinion. "In the best of times, people may pray as a way of expressing joy and thanks; during times of grief, many find that prayer provides comfort. Others may pray to give praise, seek forgiveness, ask for guidance or find the truth. ... However, recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic."

The National Day of Prayer was first established by Congress in 1952, with a more specific date for the holiday set in 1988. It is now observed on the first Thursday in May.

Smith said he can "assure" Americans that "Congress will do everything in its power to protect the National Day of Prayer."

On the holiday last year, President Obama issued a statement saying Americans have always "come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer."

"In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer," the statement said. "Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance."

So Help Us God
Tony Perkins, FRC

Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, [we] must fall with them (Jedediah Morse, 1799). Yesterday, 223 years to the day after patriots ratified an end the Revolutionary War, a judge in Wisconsin ruled to reintroduce tyranny in America--this time, from the bench. In a decision that is rocking our nation to its very core, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb determined that a national day of prayer--a tradition as old as the country itself--is unconstitutional. "...[R]ecognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it..." With all due respect, the government may do exactly that under the very documents that established it. "[The] sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records," Alexander Hamilton insisted. "They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased by mortal power."

Had Judge Crabb consulted the Constitution she was sworn to uphold, she might notice that Americans enjoy religious freedom--not by virtue of the courts, but in spite of them. Furthermore, setting aside a day of corporate prayer is more than compatible with our nation's heritage; it is a responsibility assigned to every American by George Washington himself. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God... and humbly implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer" (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789).

Contrary to Judge Crabb's opinion, this ruling does not promote freedom, it crushes it. Americans pray voluntarily. And exercising that right together, as a willing nation, is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended. To imply otherwise is to suggest that the Constitution is unconstitutional! Religion cannot be banned in America because it was never imposed--not by the Founding Fathers, and certainly not by the National Day of Prayer.

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