Arizona Prays, to Atheists’ Dismay

The Arizona Court of Appeals has again rejected a legal challenge brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation opposing the state’s Day of Prayer.  The group had attempted to show that Governor Jan Brewer, by declaring the May 2 Day of Prayer, had violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed suit in March 2010, lacked legal standing because they have not proved that they were injured by the governor’s proclamation.  The FFRF cannot claim financial loss as a result of the proclamation, since they are not Arizona taxpayers.  Further, the court ruled that claims that the proclamation inflicted psychological damage upon non-believers were unfounded.

The Arizona state constitution says that no Arizonans

“shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship, or lack of the same.”  

The court, however, ruled that the Day of Prayer is not a direct attack on the challengers’ specific belief systems.

Judge Donn Kessler, writing on behalf of the appeals court, noted that no “distinct and palpable injury” had been proven in this instance.  The judge wrote:

“The proclamations are not a direct attack on the (challengers’) specific belief systems.  Indeed, there is no allegation regarding how the (challengers) even learned about the proclamations or that the alleged harm to them was anything more than a general feeling of second-class citizenship and outside status.”

The atheists are considering an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, but are unlikely to obtain a different verdict in that venue.

Governor Jan Brewer, acknowledging the victory in a public statement, expressed her hope that the ruling will end the case once and for all.  In a statement released Tuesday, the governor said,

“I applaud the Arizona Court of Appeals for rejecting this needless legal challenge to an American custom and tradition. Given the plaintiffs’ string of legal defeats in both federal and state court, I am hopeful today’s ruling will be the final word on this issue.

“For centuries, Americans of every race, creed and color have voluntarily come together to embrace a founding freedom and pray for wisdom and strength. This is an American tradition, and one I’ve been proud to commemorate each year I’ve been Governor by proclaiming an Arizona Day of Prayer. It is all the more important during these troubled times in which we live.

“I thank the Court for its wisdom today, and pledge to continue defending the right of Americans to come together in voluntary days of prayer.”

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  • moseynon

    I wonder if the complaint by the FFRF about the Day of Prayer is at all similar to the complaint about Black History Month by some white Americans? They say “but, but… it doesn’t represent me, and I object to it due to my personal beliefs.” My own view is that simply because the government offers recognition to one segment of it citizens doesn’t constitute unjust discrimination against the other citizens. We have all kinds of holidays which single out one segment of the population or the other. Why not learn to live with diversity?

  • Fantastic! Occasionally we win one. 🙂