MADISON, Wis. To pray or not to pray? That's the issue government leaders across the country are facing after a federal judge ruled that theset for May 6 was unconstitutional.
The ruling can't take effect until all appeals are exhausted, but that's not stopping atheists and prayer advocates from firing off letters, e-mails and even planning to put up billboards to convince state and local leaders across the country to see things their way.
Nothing's changing in Topeka, Kan., says Mayor Bill Bunten.
"Some of these judges have lost their way," Bunten said. "Every day is a day of prayer in most Kansas lives, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever, and to say that a prayer day is illegal is just ridiculous. That judge better go back and read some history about how this country was formed. Next thing you know we won't be able to sing 'God Bless America.'"
The ruling raised a furor among religious advocacy groups, who say the day has become an American tradition. And the announcement this week by President Barack Obama's administration that it would appeal galvanized atheists, who are trying to persuade officials not to attend local events. Their campaigns illustrate the persistent tensions over any combination of religion and government.
Congress established a national prayer day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the official day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. Many state and local officials follow suit on that day.
Two years ago, the Madison-based separation of church and state. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled April 15 that the day amounts to a call to religious action. She included a caveat, though, that said her ruling would have no effect until all appeals are exhausted.sued the federal government, alleging the day violated the