Faith

On National Day of Prayer, Americans Fight for Religious Freedom

Some faithful warriors around the country are standing up for their basic right to pray to God as they see fit

As some Americans celebrate their religious freedom, other Americans have found themselves in messy lawsuits related to prayer.

“Our country has had a long heritage and a long history in honoring prayer in the public space,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with First Liberty Institute, told LifeZette. Dys’ law firm is the largest in the country to defend the religious freedom of Americans.

Faithful Americans around the country observe the National Day of Prayer today, on May 4 this year. President Harry Truman first established the day of prayer back in 1952.

While the right to live out one’s faith is a core foundation of First Amendment principles, American citizens have faced threats to praying in public spaces and even inside their homes. “These are issues that are very serious and growing across the country,” Dys said.

Related: College Student Banned from Reading Bible Before Class

In the past, legal threats have arisen related to National Day of Prayer celebrations.

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“Maybe we will get through this year without receiving reports of city leaders going to their national day of prayer celebrations in their towns and being threatened with lawsuits as a result,” Dys said.

On this year’s celebratory prayer day, there are ongoing cases in courts across the nations. In the vicinity of Seattle, Washington, high school football coach Joe Kennedy has found himself in a legal fight for prayers said at the 50-yard line after football games. For years, Kennedy held to his prayer tradition by thanking God after Bremerton High School games.

“After the game, once his coaching duties were completed, he’d go out to the 50-yard line, take a knee and for about 30 seconds offer a silent prayer of thanks for the game, and the players and everything else,” Dys said.

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School officials suspended Kennedy in October 2015 and ordered him to stop praying on the field. The lawsuit is ongoing as First Liberty helps defend Kennedy in court.

Another disturbing suit related to prayer involves an elderly woman who wished to pray in her home. Yet law enforcement officers ordered Mary Anne Sause, a retired Catholic nurse, not to pray in her home in Louisburg, Kansas.

“Late one night she got a knock on the door. It was the police,” Dys said. The incident happened in November 2013.

Two police officers came to her home and threatened her with jail time.

“Frightened, Sause requested … permission to pray [from one of the officers],” according to First Liberty. “The officer allowed it, and Sause knelt, beginning to pray silently. But when the second officer returned to her apartment and saw her kneeling in silent prayer, he ordered her to ‘get up’ and ‘stop praying.’ Terrified, Sause complied.”

Related: Two Moms, a Bible Class, and a Very Ugly Lawsuit

Sause lived alone in government housing.

“The officers continued to harass her, forcing Sause to reveal any scars or tattoos on her body. They then flipped through the codebook to see how they could charge her,” according to First Liberty. “Only at the end of the encounter did they tell her that they were there for a minor noise complaint because her radio was too loud.”

“It was one of the worst nights of my life.”

A district court dismissed Sause’s legal complaints — yet First Liberty is still fighting the case. First Liberty appealed the court’s ruling in September 2016.

“The police are supposed to make you feel safe, but I was terrified that night,” Sause said. “It was one of the worst nights of my life.”

These two cases are far from the only prayer fights Dys and his colleagues at First Liberty have undertaken. This year and always, we need to thank God and remember our freedoms — every last one of them.

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