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DOJ to appeal ruling finding National Day of Prayer unconstitutional

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Thursday that it will appeal last week's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the National Day of Prayer [official website] is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The DOJ filed a notice of appeal [WSJ report] Thursday with the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website], where last week Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the day of prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment [text] because it is more than "acknowledgment" of religion, but rather government-backed encouragement that Americans engage in non-secular activity. Crabb granted summary judgment for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) [advocacy website], but the White House has said that President Barack Obama still intends to recognize the day of prayer on May 6.

Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that a teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance [JURIST report] in public schools does not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The court also upheld the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on currency. In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled that a school district's policy prohibiting the performance of religious holiday songs [JURIST report] does not violate the Establishment Clause. Also that month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] ruled that license plates [JURIST report] produced by the state bearing a picture of a cross in front of a stained glass window and the words "I Believe" violate the Constitution.

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