Pittsburgh's National Day of Prayer events are going on as planned today, despite rumors that such services were canceled after a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the government-sanctioned observances unconstitutional.The National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional? Yep. We wrote about this in April.
"The judge said this would not affect any events until all appeals were exhausted," said Ray Almgren, an organizer of the major local observance in Mellon Square, Downtown. It starts at 11:30 a.m.
From U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb's opinion:
It bears emphasizing that a conclusion that the establishment clause prohibits the government from endorsing a religious exercise is not a judgment on the value of prayer or the millions of Americans who believe in its power. No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer. 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. “And perhaps it is not too much to say that since the beginning of th[e] history [of humans] many people have devoutly believed that ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.'” Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 433 (1962). 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. In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray. [Emphasis added.]And if that doesn't sway you that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitional, perhaps this will:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.If a person or groups of people want to pray for the Nation, the Constitution bans the state from interfering (and that's as it should be) BUT there's no room in the Constitution for the state to tell us that we should be praying.