COLUMN: Judge's ruling against prayer day is a joke

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:27 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If there is not a special niche in the "Serial Silliness Hall of Fame" for U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb for her ruling the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, those curators are asleep at the switch.

In writing that the government cannot enact laws supporting a day of prayer "because the nature of prayer is so personal ... and so powerful an 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," she crossed the threshold between common sense and humbug.

The "National Day of Prayer" no more uses the government's authority to order or coerce one to pray than does the Jan. 15, "National Hat Day," force us to cover our heads, nor does the April 2 "National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day" or June 17's "National Eat your Vegetables Day" require the consumption of those particular victuals Nor does Nov. 15's "National Philanthropy Day" presuppose that we all donate to charity. My personal favorite is the designation of January as "National Oatmeal Month."

Admittedly, the above paragraph is somewhat tongue-in-cheek as those "holidays" have no official standing; however, as is the case with "National Prayer Day," there is no penalty for nonobservance. One may also decide against participating in Veterans Day, Flag Day or Independence Day without fear of punishment. It would appear also that Judge Crabb elected discretion as the better part of valor — she could have included Christmas in her ruling as it is also a national holiday with definite Christian origins.

Giving the judge the benefit of the doubt, one may assume her intent was to force legal debate on a thorny issue inasmuch as she wrote that her ruling should not be a bar to prayer days until all appeals are exhausted. Nevertheless, the 2008 lawsuit filed by Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of Wisconsin-based atheists and agnostics, claiming the prayer day violates the Constitution's separation of church and state provision is the epitome of frivolous litigation.

The clause “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is clear, and regardless of popular misconception, the words "separation of church and state," "God"and "church" appear nowhere in the Constitution. That Congress shall make no law means exactly what it says — no more, no less and does not require a lawyer, a constitutional scholar nor a PHD’s interpretation. It states, unequivocally, that Congress is prohibited from establishing a national religious denomination — simply that Congress may not require Americans to be Catholic, Anglican, Baptist or any other religious denomination.

Only a zealot or one with a specific axe to grind could assert with a straight face that a national day of prayer, a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn, a nondenominational prayer at a football game or commencement exercise, or the lighting of a National Christmas Tree at the White House is establishment of a religion. This nation survived a revolution, a civil war, a depression and two world wars before this ugly  intolerance of religion was raised by skeptics and misanthropes.

A nation formed largely with religious freedom and tolerance in mind, we welcome Christians, Jews, Muslims and many other religions and sects, as well atheists and agnostics. In each of these faiths or nonfaiths, there are extremists — the lunatic fringe of the "Christian" Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church has counterparts among Muslims, Jews, Pagans and nonbelievers.

To those who fear imposition of a theocratic government, I would ask from what church or religious domination does your anxiety emanate? The last time I studied history, the crusades and the various inquisitions were long gone, and as for today, the churches and religious denominations have far too much on their plates in organizing and governing themselves to plot state control.

This continued bickering over the intent and meaning of separation of church and state is mindless and unreasonable among people presumed to be civilized. As a nation based on freedom and tolerance, is it not absurd to take seriously the notion that anyone would honestly be offended by the display of faith by another? Those who fall in that narrow-minded, bigoted category surely are but an infinitesimal part of society.

Although we as the tolerant must also tolerate the intolerant, we should not allow them to make the rules.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at

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Mike Budd May 11, 2010 | 9:36 a.m.

"Only a zealot or one with a specific axe to grind could assert with a straight face that a national day of prayer, a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn, a nondenominational prayer at a football game or commencement exercise, or the lighting of a National Christmas Tree at the White House is establishment of a religion."

Aparently constituional scholars, lawyers, and judges are axe weilding zealots. Forgive me if I take their word for it over yours.

"as for today, the churches and religious denominations have far too much on their plates in organizing and governing themselves to plot state control."

Apparently you haven't been listening to the religious right lately...

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 11, 2010 | 4:36 p.m.

Perhaps when Judge Crabb was three or four years old somebody stole her teddy bear.

That will do it every time!

(Report Comment)
Louise Dotter May 11, 2010 | 5:13 p.m.

WHY do Christians want to encourage public prayer, especially during governmental meetings, in public schools, on military bases etc. when their own scriptures state:

Matthew Chapter 6 vs5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words."

Are they embracing "hypocrisy" or declaring themselves "heathen"??

(Report Comment)
Ruth Walker May 11, 2010 | 5:27 p.m.

Those objecting to Judge Crabb's ruling obviously have not read it.

I remember that many people of faith believed that law was wrong when it was first passed in 1952. Jesus taught to pray in private, after all. (Matthew 6)

Judge Crabb's ruling took no rights away. Everybody can pray whenever they want anyway. The laws are clearly unconstitutional, the ruling spelling out the reasons, quoting history and case law. You can read it here:

Many would like to rewrite history. James Madison wrote in 1822: “We are teaching the world the great truth that Governments do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government.”

Please urge the Administration to not waste time and taxpayer money on appeals!

(Report Comment)
ed words May 11, 2010 | 8:30 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
tom kelly May 12, 2010 | 11:43 p.m.

Thank you Dotter and Walker,
Thank God, Jesus wasn't a Christian. The world would be a much, MUCH BETTER AND SAFER PLACE if everyone kept their religious beliefs in their homes.
Our founders DELIBERATELY kept State and Religion separate. Do all the religious fanatics think that our founders weren't spiritual? Of course they were, but they knew where prayer belonged, and so did Jesus. Why can't Christians listen to Jesus? Do they think they know better?

(Report Comment)
Larry Carter Center May 18, 2010 | 10:37 a.m.

.....MR Miller joked off his colonel uniform with this theocratic lie against our Constitution and wise secular nation. .....No where in our highest law, our founding document does the word prayer or the word god appear.
...... And MR Miller seems to forget that the KJbible was cited for proof that slavery was legitimate and rebels attacked FT Sumter.
......That was here 1861, in Charleston, SC where Jews first settled in a commercial colony where no one was forced to pray xian prayers.
..... Where later KKK cross burners terrorize both Jews and Blacks.
.....We Atheists finally gathered enough courage and comraderie to fight back against McCarthyism in the last 60 years while the National Day of Prayer was the front face of anti-unionist labeling all Atheists communists seeking higher wages.
..... I am one American Atheist who sees sanity from Judge Crabb and lunacy from MR Miller.
..... Miller knows no history and pretends his evil theocrats are somehow different from the "Allah Ak Bar" prayerful terrorists. No alleged deity is great.
...... Just because Congress printed god into my Boy Scout Handbook in 1955, does not mean the god word is worthy of official government testing for us all to conform to praying to the flag every day in classrooms.
..... Our nation is manipulated with the C Street "Family" Congressional Cult with members like Chuck Grassley, John Ensign and Mark Sanford, all who helped madmen to power in Africa under the prayerful xian flag.
..... Our nation is bankrupt over oil profiteering wars and a deadly racist invasion of two Muslim lands.
..... We provoke these Arabs to violence and wonder why they complain we've killed one million mostly civilians?
..... The Army of Saddam was propped up by British and American spies to kill Iranians.
..... We taxpayers even bought gunsights engraved with bible verses while forcing hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of Blackwater mercenaries. ........ Merry xmas!
...... Onward xian soldiers MR Miller?
I'm one who will not join that prayer facade for more killing and more religious nightmares our Constitution was designed to prevent. ..... 843-926-1750 Larry Carter Center
...... USN'71-'73

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