Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot
On October 28, 2010, Colorado District Judge Mullins rejected an atheist group’s attempt to relegate religious groups to second class status. The National Day of Prayer Task Force (“NDPTF”), led by Shirley Dobson, has asked state governors for many years to issue a proclamation acknowledging the annual National Day of Prayer. Colorado, like most states, allows any group to request such a proclamation from the governor, and suggest language for it. For instance, the Colorado Governor has issued proclamations for groups supporting the Turks and Armenians.
But a radical athiest group from Wisconsin thinks groups like the NDPTF shouldn’t have the same access to this opportunity because they are religious. So they sued Governor Ritter, and asked the Colorado District Court to enter an order prohibiting prayer proclamations in the future. The plaintiffs claimed the prayer proclamations violated two provisions of the Colorado Constitution: (1) “no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his opinions concerning religion,” and (2) “[n]or shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.”
Judge Mullins wisely rejected both of these claims. First he held the plaintiffs’ claim that the prayer proclamation made them “feel like outsiders” was not a denial of any right or privilege. The Colorado Constitution does not give citizens the right to “feel any particular way.” Then the judge properly determined that allowing the NDPTF to have the same ability to request a proclamation as other groups does not give any preference to religion. The Governor’s proclamation merely “acknowledges the right of individuals to pray and worship, the National Day of Prayer, and the events held by the National Day of Prayer Task Force at the capitol.”
No court has ever ruled that governors, presidents, mayors and other members of the executive branch cannot issue proclamations acknowledging the National Day of Prayer. Judge Mullins rejected the atheists’ mischaracterization of a recent Wisconsin judge’s opinion as making such a holding. And he also concluded that refusing to issue proclamations by groups with religious motivation would actually violate the constitution because it would indicate hostility toward religion. Of course, hostility to religion is exactly what this anti-religious group is all about.
Instead of just asking for their own proclamation, the atheist group tried to use the courts to further their own ignoble purpose of attacking religious people and treating them like second class citizens. Thankfully, Judge Mullin saw through their ruse and upheld the rights of religious people and groups like the NDPTF to obtain proclamations just like anyone else.
This post originally appeared here.