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Church State Issues

Lawsuit again targets Arizona Day of Prayer

Jan 6, 2012

By: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

Arizona Republic Article

A national organization of non-religious "freethinkers" has again filed suit against Gov. Jan Brewer for her proclamations in support of an Arizona Day of Prayer and asking people to pray for Arizona's economy and state budget in 2010.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer violates First Amendment with Day of Prayer proclamation The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Maricopa County Superior Court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, alleges Brewer's actions violated the state's constitution. The lawsuit focuses on two areas of the state constitution that provide that no public money or property should be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction; and that residents should ever be "molested" on account of his or her religious worship - or lack of worship.

The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in response to the December decision by a U.S. District Court judge who threw out a similar federal lawsuit. In her dismissal order, Judge Roslyn Silver said the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they could not show how the governor's actions caused them injury or harm.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the court to declare the prayer proclamations unconstitutional and to prohibit Brewer from declaring future prayer proclamations.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based organization, said the organization is pondering an appeal of Silver's decision, but in the meantime, wanted to pursue a suit in state court.

"We mean business - we do not think the governor has the right - or the authority - under the Arizona state constitution to exort citizens to pray - much less set aside an entire day to pray," Raylor said. "She's also demonstrated other inappropriate overreaches of her c. office by even asking people to pray about the budget, which is think is a little ridiculous."

Gaylor accused Brewer of using her office to promote her own religious point of view and pointed out that the lawsuit was brought by atheists, Christians, Mulsims and Buddhists.

Since assuming the governor's seat, Brewer has declared an Arizona Day of Prayer in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Both instances coincided with the National Day of Prayer, which is also facing a legal challenge from the same organization. Brewer also proclaimed a day of prayer for the budget on Jan. 17, 2010.

The Governor's Office did not immediately respond for comment on the new lawsuit. In a past statement on the dismissal of the federal lawsuit, however, Brewer called that suit "baseless" and a "futile attempt to stifle American right and tradition."

Reach the reporter at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4712.