- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2014

DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court threw out a legal challenge to the governor’s honorary Day of Prayer proclamations Monday, ruling that members of an anti-religion group lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued on behalf of four Colorado residents who objected to the governor’s tradition of declaring a state Day of Prayer on the same day as the National Day of Prayer, calling the practice unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the 5-2 majority, said that those bringing the lawsuit failed to show that any harm done by the annual proclamation was “injury sufficient to establish individual standing.”

“Although we do not question the sincerity of Respondents’ feelings, without more, their circuitous exposure to the honorary proclamations and concomitant belief that the proclamations expressed the Governor’s preference for religion is simply too indirect and incidental an injury to confer individual standing,” Ms. Rice said in the opinion.

“To hold otherwise would render the injury-in-fact requirement superfluous, as any person who learned of a government action through the media and felt politically marginalized as a result of that secondhand media exposure would have individual standing to sue the government,” she said.

The foundation had previously sued to stop the president from issuing an annual National Day of Prayer proclamation, a challenge that was ultimately rejected by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis of standing in 2011.

Colorado Attorney General-elect Cynthia Coffman applauded the state Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision in a Monday statement.

“This decision by the state's high court means that like the president of the United States and other governors around the country, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and future Colorado governors are free to issue honorary proclamations without fear of being tied up in court by special interest groups,” Ms. Coffman said. “It was the correct ruling by the justices after careful consideration of the issues.”

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor disagreed with the decision, saying in a statement that, “Under today’s precedent, if Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper decided to proclaim a state religion, no state citizen would have the right to challenge him!”

The group filed the lawsuit in 2008 and won a decision two years later before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“We thank our all-important state plaintiffs and are indignant on their behalf that courthouse doors are being slammed shut against citizens whose freedom of conscience is being violated so blatantly by theocratic elected officials,” Ms. Gaylor said.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Michael Norton, who had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the state, said Monday the high court was correct in supporting “constitutionally protected freedoms, such as prayer.”

“Public officials remain free to issue such proclamations in the years ahead just as the founders of our country and state of Colorado were free to do,” Mr. Norton said in a statement. “This is a freedom not only rooted in our history, it is a constitutionally protected freedom clearly recognized in both state and federal courts.”

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