Today marks the 59th annual National Day of Prayer.  The day was enacted by Congress in 1952 (36 U.S.C. § 119) after being initiated by Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels (Paris Hilton’s great grandfather, if you appreciate irony) and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas.

A flashpoint for debates over the separation of church and state, the National Day of Prayer was recently ruled unconstitutional by a United States District Court in Madison, Wisconsin.  In her decision Judge Barbara Crabb writes, “In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.” See more here.

In his Presidential Proclamation, Obama states:

We are blessed to live in a Nation that counts freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion among its most fundamental principles, thereby ensuring that all people of goodwill may hold and practice their beliefs according to the dictates of their consciences.  Prayer has been a sustaining way for many Americans of diverse faiths to express their most cherished beliefs, and thus we have long deemed it fitting and proper to publicly recognize the importance of prayer on this day across the Nation.

Full text of the proclamation can be found here.