WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Thursday that it will appeal a court decision that found the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison, Wis., ruled last week that the National Day of Prayer that Congress established 58 years ago amounts to a call for religious action.
In a notice filed Thursday, the Justice Department said it will challenge the decision in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The notice came after about two dozen members of Congress condemned the ruling and pressed for an appeal.
The case was brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics who argue that the National Day of Prayer violates the separation of church and state. Its co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said she was disappointed in the decision to appeal.
"I would have expected something better from a legal scholar," she said, referring to President Barack Obama's background as a law professor.
Her group planned to launch an online petition Thursday praising Crabb's decision and asking Obama, the principal defendant in the lawsuit, to "leave days of prayer to individuals, private groups and churches, synagogues, mosques and temples."
Also Thursday, the Army said evangelist Franklin Graham's invitation to speak at a Pentagon National Day of Prayer event has been rescinded because comments he made about Islam were inappropriate.
• The Senate passed a bill to deny members of Congress a built-in pay raise of about $1,600 next year. Members of Congress make $174,000 a year.
• An ethics watchdog group filed a federal complaint Thursday accusing Sen. David Vitter, R-La., of accepting illegal campaign contributions from a California dry cleaning company that wanted stimulus money.
• Some family members of severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans would get more government assistance under a bill that is going to the White House. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, a day after unanimous House approval.