Prayer Day goes on despite court ruling

Posted May 05, 2010, at 9:32 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:39 a.m.

Three weeks after a federal judge in Wisconsin declared the event unconstitutional, the National Day of Prayer will be observed today at 75 churches and public spaces in Maine.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb on April 14 said the federal statute that established the event is unconstitutional. In a 66-page opinion, she said the law violates the First Amendment’s prohibition of government endorsement of religion.

Crabb’s ruling is why it is “extremely important” to observe the National Day of Prayer today, the Rev. James Lord, assistant pastor of Calvary Chapel in Orrington, said Wednesday.

Calvary Chapel organizes the annual event in Bangor at the gazebo behind the Paul Bunyan statue on Main Street. It will be held there at noon today, Lord said.

“The Bible calls for us to pray for those in leadership whether we agree with them or not,” Lord said. “We are going to pray for our national and state elected officials, our public officials and the soldiers who protect us. We are going to pray for anyone working to keep this a free and Christian nation.”

Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, called on all people of faith to take part in the national event.

“Our Founding Fathers allocated a time for prayer during the Continental Congress in 1775; and Abraham Lincoln recognized the value of prayer when he first called for a day of prayer in 1863,” Malone said in a press release issued earlier this week.

Every Catholic church that has daily Mass this morning will have special prayer intentions for the nation and its leaders, said Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese.

“Whether you give thanks and praise at Church during daily Mass, at your synagogue, mosque, community gathering or merely in the quiet of your home,” the bishop said in the press release, “I urge you to join your intentions with millions of others for guidance, strength, protection and peace for our great country.”

In issuing her ruling, the federal judge in Wisconsin enjoined President Barack Obama from issuing the executive order calling for the celebration of the event this year. Crabb then stayed her own injunction in anticipation of an appeal.

Obama last month issued the proclamation declaring today the National Day of Prayer.

The lawsuit began what was predicted to be a long legal journey ending in the U.S. Supreme Court when the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the U.S. government last year. The group promotes the separation of church and state.

The National Day of Prayer was established by President Harry Truman. Its purpose is to pray for the nation and its leaders, according to information the website devoted to the event.

For information about where service will be held in Maine, visit http://nationaldayofprayer.org/about/find-an-event/.

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