A three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled unanimously, on May 10th, that Day of Prayer proclamations by the Governor are unconstitutional. The court didn’t address the National Day of Prayer but the reasoning can be applied to that law: “A reasonable observer would conclude that these proclamations send the message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado’s political community, and that those who do not pray do not enjoy that favored status.”
The case was brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2008:
Judge Steve Bernard, with concurrences by Judges Alan Loeb and Nancy Lichtenstein, overturned a lower court decision, ruling in favor of FFRF’s challenge of Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations: “A reasonable observer would conclude that these proclamations send the message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado’s political community, and that those who do not pray do not enjoy that favored status.”
Bernard wrote that “the six Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations [2004-09] at issue here are governmental conduct that violate the Preference Clause [of the Religious Freedom section of Colorado’s Constitution].” The content is “predominantly religious; they lack a secular context; and their effect is government endorsement of religion as preferred over nonreligion.”
The proclamations “have the primary or principal effect of endorsing religious beliefs because they convey or attempt to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.” The 74-page decision noted that the “inclusion of biblical verses and religious themes,” statements urging “that individuals will unite in prayer” and the governor’s signature, imprimatur and seal make “no doubt here that the religious message is attributed to the Governor.”
The lower court ruling that was overturned in this decision said that people wouldn’t think the Governor supported the ideas in proclamations he issued. Of course that reasoning is wrong.
A few years ago my local Humanist group asked the Columbus mayor to issue a proclamation honoring Charles Darwin Day. Why? So we could say the Mayor and the city supported Evolution.
Anyone who says they ask for the proclamation for no real reason are lying. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed.