The National Day of Prayer was first made an official annual day of observance in 1952 and signed into law by Harry Truman. The constitutionality of the law is currently being challenged in court, on appeal, by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their earlier challenge was unanimously dismissed by a federal appellate court in April 2011. It had earlier been ruled unconstitutional in 2010.
Regardless of the legal issues surrounding the day, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation designating May 5 as a National Day of Prayer on April 29. He issued similar proclamations in both 2009 and 2010.
In addition, there is a National Day of Prayer Task Force. According to the group's website, more than 35,000 people will gather across the United States in prayer on this day. The National Day of Prayer Task Force's chairperson is Shirley Dobson, the wife James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.
According to Wikipedia, litigation in the matter first started in 2008. On October 3, 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued President George W. Bush, Jim Doyle, Shirley Dobson, chair, National Day of Prayer Task Force, and White House Press Secretary Dana Perino at a Madison, Wisconsin federal court.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) defended Shirley Dobson and the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The Obama administration asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to dismiss the case in March 2009, arguing that the group has no legal standing to sue and that the tradition of the National Day of Prayer dated back to 1775. The suit was then amended to include President Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. As noted above, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is attempting to appeal the latest decision.
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