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Attorney General's News Release

July 8, 2010

Attorney General Koster seeks to overturn ruling declaring National Day of Prayer unconstitutional

Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Chris Koster today joined with 28 other state attorneys general seeking to reverse an April 2010 holding that the statute creating the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.  

A federal trial court in April found for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Freedom from Religion Foundation, et al., challenging the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer.  Koster said he and other attorneys general want that judgment reversed and have filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago asking for the reversal.

The brief highlights a number of cases in which the courts have acknowledged the country's religious heritage and the role of religion in American life.  It points out that President Washington issued the first presidential proclamation designating a day for prayer and thanksgiving, and nearly every subsequent president has followed suit.

"There is nothing in the National Day of Prayer statute that would require prayer," Koster said.  "However, the statute recognizes the importance of prayer in our nation, as did Benjamin Franklin when the framers of the Constitution reached an impasse, and he proposed that Congress adjourn for two days to seek divine guidance."

Koster said the attorneys general believe that the court's ruling as it stands casts doubt on state laws that provide for a day of prayer and may call into question the traditional individual state practice of issuing proclamations for special days of prayer during times of difficulty or tragedy.

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