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The American Humanist Association files Amicus Brief Challenging National Day of Prayer

Washington, DC, October 8, 2010

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday, seeking an  affirmation of the district court's decision holding the National Day of Prayer Statute as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The brief can be found here, and was filed by The Appignani Humanist Legal Center on behalf of the American Humanist Association, the Institute for Humanist Studies, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2008 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  In April 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer proclamation was unconstitutional, noting that the statute that mandates the presidential proclamation "goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."

"Our brief argues that the National Day of prayer statute and presidential National Day of Prayer proclamations violate the Constitution in two respects. First, they are an endorsement of the monotheistic religions, principally Christianity and Judaism, in violation of the First Amendment's prohibition against government endorsements of religion,” said Bob Ritter, staff attorney of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Second, they violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause by classifying citizens on the basis of religion and disadvantaging those not favored by the government's preferred religion."

In response to the National Day of Prayer, The American Humanist Association helped establish the National Day of Reason, celebrating reason and raising public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of belief.

The brief states that “the National Day of Prayer statute and proclamations infringe upon the fundamental right of religious liberty by allowing the majority to use the machinery of the government to promote Judeo-Christian monotheistic beliefs.”

http://www.americanhumanist.org/uploads/pdfs/ahlc/10-1973_ffrf_v_obama_7cir_amicus_aha_10-07-2007.pdf

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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