On December 12, Judge Silver, a federal judge in Arizona, threw out a claim that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer violated the Establishment Clause by issuing day of prayer proclamations in observance of the National Day of Prayer. The court cited the Seventh Circuit’s recent ruling in FFRF v. Obama, saying “hurt feelings” don’t give someone standing to bring a federal case. The Court also said that no constitutional injury results from plaintiffs getting up to turn off the TV or avoiding conversations with people because they don’t want to hear about the prayer proclamations.
Judge Silver got it exactly right. The Establishment Clause doesn’t give anti-religionists license to roam the country or channel surf looking for things to be offended by, and then making a federal case out of them. There is no right not to be offended in America. This decision, like the Seventh Circuit’s decision in FFRF v. Obama in which ADF represented Mrs. Dobson and the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is another very important step in limiting the ability of anti-religion activist groups like FFRF to harass state and local government officials who simply want to acknowledge our nation’s religious heritage. These groups often use lawsuits and the attorney fees that come with them as a vehicle to intimidate government officials into silence about their own religious beliefs, as well as those of our Founding Fathers and the vast majority of present day Americans.
Certainly the government cannot tell people how, and to whom, to pray. But a long line of government officials like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan have encouraged people to pray because they believed it is helpful to our country and rightly acknowledges our religious heritage. Our Founders even had prayer at the Constitutional Convention. The Constitution was never meant to be used to censor this practice, and courts shouldn’t misinterpret it to do so now.
Kudos to Judge Silver for getting this one right, and to Governor Brewer for standing against special interest groups bent on silencing her and eradicating religion from all public acknowledgement.