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Mr. Elliott said the foundation would likely file a response to the attorney general’s petition before the high court this month.

“Certainly governments like to appeal to certain constituencies with these proclamations instead of having restraint in their official capacity,” Mr. Elliott said.

The National Day of Prayer traces its roots to 1775, when the Continental Congress set aside a day for prayer. In 1952, President Truman set aside an annual day of prayer, and in 1988, President Reagan set the date as the first Thursday in May.