Brewer tells pastors she, staff rely on prayer

Gov. Jan Brewer talks about politics and prayer to a group of Lutheran ministers in 2009. (Capitol Media Services file photo)

Howard Fischer

Saying they haven't shown they are harmed, a state judge has rejected a bid by several individuals to keep Gov. Jan Brewer from her annual "Day of Prayer'' declaration.

In her brief ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eileen Willett never addressed the contention by challengers that the governor has violated a state constitutional provision which bars the use of public money or property "applied to any religious worship.''

Attorneys for challengers argued that Brewer acted on public time in issuing the declaration. And they said while the amount of paper may be minimal, that does not make it legal.

Willett said, though, those contesting the governor's action suffered no "particularlized and concrete injury.'' And she said they did not file their claims as taxpayers.

This is actually the second defeat for foes, led by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. A federal judge in Arizona last year threw out a similar lawsuit based on alleged violations of federal constitutional rights.

But attorney Richard Morris said Monday there are differences between the state and federal constitution that Willett did not recognize. He has vowed to appeal.

Morris acknowledged that the plaintiffs, who include both atheists as well as people of various faiths, do not suffer a physical harm from Brewer's annual declaration. The harm, he said, is more intellectual.

"They feel they're on the outside of this,'' he said.

"You've got to be on the inside clique of, in this case, the governor's brand of Christianity,'' Morris continued. "Otherwise the government's discriminating against you.''

He said that is why "you've got to have a complete separation between church and state.''

But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that misses the point.

"These days of prayer are voluntary occasions,'' he said. "They're an opportunity for Arizonans of every race, creed and color to come together seeking wisdom from a higher power, whomever that power may be.''

Nor was Benson dissuaded by questions about how such a declaration might make outsiders of those who do not believe in a "higher power,'' saying those who do not believe are free to ignore the governor's action.

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