Court dismisses Shirley Dobson from lawsuit challenging National Day of Prayer

ADF attorneys obtain dismissal of Focus on the Family founder’s wife from suit waged by anti-Christian organization, court still entertaining challenge to NDOP
Tuesday, March 02, 2010

WASHINGTON — A federal judge issued an order Tuesday dismissing all claims against Shirley Dobson in a lawsuit alleging that government-issued proclamations encouraging citizens to pray are unconstitutional.  Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment in the suit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the court granted that motion. But it also granted FFRF’s motion, which allows it to challenge the statute permitting a national day of prayer. 

“Prayer proclamations are a long-established and cherished American tradition going back to the Founding Fathers,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster.  “The lawsuit against Mrs. Dobson was based on the ridiculous argument that a private citizen can violate the law by praying, and it is just another example of one radical organization’s allergic reaction to anything involving God. FFRF is showcasing to America that its true agenda is not to just silence the government, but private citizens, as well.”

While the case is ongoing against President Barack Obama, the court did state that it could not stop future presidential prayer proclamations from being issued.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed its suit against a number of government officials, including then President George W. Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. The suit also named National Day of Prayer Task Force Chairperson Shirley Dobson, who was represented by ADF attorneys. The current lawsuit, being heard by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, was first filed against the last administration, but is now named Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama, to reflect the current administration.

The 59th National Day of Prayer, which occurs May 6, offers an opportunity for thousands of Americans to unite in prayer for the country at a variety of events nationwide.  In 1775, the Continental Congress called upon people to pray for God’s wisdom in forming a nation.  In 1952, President Harry S. Truman established an annual National Day of Prayer via a joint resolution of Congress.  The law was amended in 1988 to set the day as the first Thursday of May.

In 2008, ADF attorneys sent an information letter to nearly 1,200 of America’s largest cities, advising them of their constitutional right to recognize and participate in the National Day of Prayer.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.