National Day of Prayer: Violation of Church and State or Free Speech?

US District Judge Barbara Crabb (

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) The National Day of Prayer has been described as a day of unity, but the controversy surrounding it has made it more a day of factionalism and heated debate.

Ever since U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, critics have declared what they think of her: A Marxist. A disgrace. One person wrote that he was praying God removes her from office.

Crabb emphasized in her written ruling that her conclusion was not a judgment "on the value of prayer or the millions of Americans who believe in its power."

But she said the government can no more encourage citizens to pray than to "fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic."

Crabb put enforcement of her ruling on hold pending the appeal, meaning thousands of prayer events will go on as scheduled, but Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which brought the lawsuit against the law, said she was confident Crabb's decision would be upheld.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, NC the state Capitol will become a battleground of sorts as Christians gather to worship on the south side of the government building while a group of nonreligious people silently protest the prayer event on the north side, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

That the dual, and hopefully peaceful, demonstrations are happening in the same place, at the same time, not only highlights the controversy, but perhaps shows how powerful and essential the First Amendment is in defining what it means to be an American citizen.