Bad title. Whatever.
Two weeks ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued (PDF) over Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s upcoming Prayer Rally, calling it a violation of church/state separation. They wanted to know why a governor was using his title to promote a Christian rally.
Today, a judge ruled against the good guys.
U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller ruled that the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation did not have standing to sue.
The plaintiffs argued that the day of prayer and fasting the governor has initiated and promoted violated the Constitution. Randall Kallinen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the Freedom from Religion Foundation was not trying to stop the event or prevent Perry’s participation, but was opposed to his involvement as governor.
In his opinion, Miller noted that attendance at the event is voluntary and ruled that the plaintiffs had not shown “a particularized concrete injury.”
I haven’t been able to find the ruling online yet. (The case is Staley, et. al. v. Perry and the number is 4:11-cv-02585.)
The standing issue is a weak reason to dismiss the case. It’s essentially saying, “I’m going to ignore the merits of your argument. You’re not directly harmed by the Prayer Rally, so why are you suing? Go away.”
Besides lack of standing, though, the other reason Miller tossed out the lawsuit was that the 7th Circuit had previously ruled that it was ok for President Obama to promote a National Day of Prayer. If he can do that, why can’t Perry promote this?
But Obama’s wrong, too. Had our side won that case, it would be very tough to argue FFRF didn’t have a good point. This is precisely why it’s so important for atheists to file these kinds of lawsuits.
A lot of people complain about suing over the NDOP, claiming that no one is forced to participate and it does atheists no harm. But actions like those just set the precedent for future church/state violations. Our loss in the Obama lawsuit is coming back to bite us again.
FFRF is considering appealing the decision.
***Update***: FFRF responds:
FFRF plans to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or to reconfigure the case so that it may be heard again. FFRF maintains that coercion into a religious practice is not required in order to bring suit under the Establishment Clause.
“Government endorsement of one religious view that excludes other religions and nonbelievers is enough,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.
Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor attended the hearing in Houston and added, “Nobody would have trouble seeing the injury if a governor aligned himself with a radical Muslim group and used his office to call all citizens to a daylong prayer to Allah rally. This event is no different.”