Arizona day of prayer in jeopardy

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by Tyler Baldwin

azfamily.com

Posted on March 17, 2011 at 10:01 PM

PHOENIX - A lawsuit says Arizona has no business in prayer but Governor Jan Brewer says, “This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to drive religious expression from the public square. I will fight it vigorously."

The people behind a lawsuit filed in court on Tuesday claims Gov. Brewer violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when she declared May 6 the Arizona Day of Prayer.

"I'm not looking to keep anybody from exercising their religion. They can believe in whatever they want. That's fine. Just don't get the state involved and don't push it on me," Mike Wasdin said.  He is one of the four plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit with the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Wasdin says, "I'm a freedom-minded person. This is more about freedom than religion with me. I don't like the government telling people, like myself, what to do."

3TV spoke to the governor in downtown Phoenix at the faith-based Cityfest event. She told the crowd, "What a beautiful day the Lord has made. This is what Arizona is all about."

She tells 3TV she will see them in court. "Well, I think it’s a little bit of a frivolous lawsuit. Of course, the majority of Americans, the majority of Arizonans all support... it's been a sort of tradition in America, if you will."

3TV received a mixed reaction from Arizona residents.

Christina Cousins points out that nobody would be forced to pray, "If you don't want to pray, fine. It's like today, St. Patty's Day. If you don't want to celebrate St. Patty's Day, then don't. If you don't want to pray on the day of prayer, then don't."

Elita Irving is all for prayer but feels this the holiday would breach separation of church and state. "I wouldn't say I am strongly against it, just because the intentions are so good but, on a principal and ideological level, I don't think it's good."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation was successful on a federal level challenging the National Day of Prayer. A U.S. District Judge ruled it unconstitutional.

Wasdin feels they have a strong case, "The same people that are upset that we have filed this lawsuit…how would they feel if we decided to enact a day of non-belief, of non-prayer? Would those same people join us and support us? I don't think so."

That federal case is being appealed.

According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, 17 percent of Arizona residents consider themselves non-religious.
 

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