The House of Representatives can continue to open its sessions in prayer, a U.S. District Court ruled Wednesday.
The practice was challenged by Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Dan Barker last year after he was told he could not deliver a secular invocation. He sued U.S. House Chaplain Patrick Conroy for "violating his rights" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Constitution. The FFRF filed the lawsuit on the National Day of Prayer.
Not only is Congress banning nonbelievers from participating, the FFRF argues, but they are spending $800,000 in taxpayer resources for opening prayers. Barker, the group said, submitted all necessary documentation and even offered a draft of his prepared remarks.
Yet, the court has ruled on the side of prayer.
House Speaker Paul Ryan applauded the court's decision, especially in context of Rep. Steve Scalise's (R-LA) miraculous recovery after being shot at a congressional baseball practice over the summer.
“Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation's legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer. Recently, especially following the return of Majority Whip Steve Scalise, this institution has been reminded about the power of prayer. I commend the District Court for its decision, and I am grateful that the People's House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”
Upon his return to Capitol Hill, Scalise shared with his colleagues how his faith pulled him through the most frightening moments of his life.