“Since the founding of the Republic, Congress has requested [our] Presidents to call on the citizens to pray.” Those are the first words in a very important decision on April 14th by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Judge Frank Easterbrook, one of the best jurists of our time, wrote that landmark ruling. He explained that every President except Thomas Jefferson has complied with these requests by Congress. Yet last year, a Jimmy Carter-appointed district court judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, and even issued an injunction against the President to stop him from proclaiming it.
Judge Easterbrook overturned that obnoxious ruling by the lower court, and wrote, “Those who do not agree with a President's statement may speak in opposition to it; [but] they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove.” Judge Easterbrook held that claiming you are "offended" is not a basis for censoring religious comments by public officials. After all, people might be offended by a lot of things a public official says, but censorship is not the answer.
Joining Judge Easterbrook in overturning the lower court decision was Judge Daniel Manion. When he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, the liberals tried to defeat his confirmation because his father, Dean Clarence Manion, was a great leader of the conservative movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately, the liberals were not successful. Judge Manion was confirmed and served with distinction for 25 years on this important appellate court.
I hope this ruling will close the door on other challenges to religion in public life. An alleged feeling of being "offended" does not entitle anyone to run into court to try to censor religious expression. Perhaps this National Day of Prayer precedent can be used to toss out many other attempts to exclude Christianity from the public square.
The case is Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc. v. Obama, 2011 U.S. App. LEXUS 7678 (7th Cir. Wis. Apr. 14, 2011)
Listen to the radio commentary here: