Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by a group of Arizona atheists seeking to stop her from declaring a “Day of Prayer.’’
In legal papers filed in U.S. District Court, her attorneys said her prior declarations since she became governor have all been in compliance with federal and state constitutional provisions and laws. They also argued the challengers have no standing to challenge any future actions, and they told Judge Roslyn Silver that Brewer has a First Amendment right to free speech.
The lawsuit, filed last month by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of some Arizona residents, contends these declaration violate another First Amendment provision that precludes Congress from approving any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” Attorney Richard Morris said the declaration amounts to government “advocating religion.’’
Brewer, in a prepared statement, vowed to “vigorously fight this lawsuit.’’
“This out-of-state group would like to use the courts to put a stop to an American custom in which people of every race, background and creed voluntarily come together to pray for strength, wisdom and guidance,’’ she said.
At this point it would appear the law is on Brewer’s side.
The same group had filed suit last year to block President Barack Obama from making the same declaration on the national level, something the president is required to do by federal law. While a trial judge agreed, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the challengers lack standing to sue.
Judge Frank Easterbrook pointed out that the only person who is impacted by that law is the president.
“It does not require a private person to do anything, or for that matter to take any action in response to whatever the president proclaims,’’ the judge wrote. “If anyone suffers injury, therefore, that person is the president who is not complaining.’’
It is the same logic, Easterbrook wrote, that says someone who is not compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance cannot sue to stop others from reciting it because of the phrase “under God.’’
The Day of Prayer is traditionally the first Thursday in May, which this year falls on May 5.