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Federal judge rules National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional

MADISON, Wis.

Judge: Day of Prayer defies constitution

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the government cannot call for religious action. Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state. President Barack Obama's administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders. The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented 31 members of Congress who joined the federal government as defendants, promised to appeal.

WASHINGTON

Ex-NSA worker is charged over leaks

A former senior executive at the National Security Agency was charged Thursday with lying and obstruction of justice in an investigation of leaks of classified information to a newspaper. Federal prosecutors said Thomas Drake, 52, served as a source for many articles about the NSA in an unidentified newspaper, including articles that contained classified information. The indictment does not identify the reporter, the newspaper or the subject matter of the stories. It says the stories were published between February 2006 and November 2007. The most serious charge in the 10-count indictment carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

NEW YORK

Imam dodges jail in subway case

Afghanistan-born imam Ahmad Afzali, linked to the suspects in an aborted suicide bomb plot against New York City subway stations, has dodged jail time, but he must leave the country within 90 days. Afzali pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a deal sparing him serious jail time. He faced up to six months in prison. Afzali was arrested in September as federal authorities scrambled to thwart a plot by Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver who is the case's principal suspect. Afzali has said he had wanted to help authorities but lied under questioning by the FBI about his phone conversations with Zazi.

Elsewhere

Quake rattles West: A magnitude 4.9 earthquake rattled parts of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho just before 6 p.m. MDT Thursday, the University of Utah said. The epicenter was a sparsely-populated area about five miles northeast of Randolph, a town 73 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

Soldier sentenced: A military jury in Fort Bragg, N. C., on Thursday sentenced Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis to die for the murders of a North Carolina mother and her two children in 1985.

Porn star opts out of race: Louisiana-born porn star Stormy Daniels announced Thursday that she will not run for U.S. Senate in her home state, ending a yearlong flirtation with politics that began as Republican incumbent Sen. David Vitter was working to overcome a sex scandal.

Art alert: After getting 10 calls in the past few weeks, New York City police are alerting the city's residents that life-size body casts gazing down from buildings are the work of artist Antony Gormley and not real people preparing to jump.

Times wires

Federal judge rules National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional 04/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 16, 2010 12:00am]

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