The National Day of Prayer is considered a vital part of the American heritage and has great significance for the nation. However, some now consider the National Day of Prayer, which is the first Thursday in May, to be unconstitutional. According to USA Today, US District Judge Barbara Crabb judged last last month that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.
Crabb decided in favor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in a ruling which states that the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer proclamation by the President of the US, violates the establishment clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment. "In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful 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," Crabb wrote.
The first governmental call to prayer dates back to 1775, according to the official National Day of Prayer website, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. The call to prayer has continued throughout American history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors, plus the governors of several US territories signed similar proclamations. The National Day of Prayer enables Americans to recall and to follow the way in which the founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. "It stands as a call to us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning," as reported by the official National Day of Prayer website. Crabb wrote that her ruling shouldn't be considered a bar to any prayer days until all appeals are exhausted. "It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," American Center of Law and Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement.