Colorado appeals court declares Day of Prayer unconstitutional

A Colorado court has ruled the state’s proclamation for a Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

The state appeals court made the ruling Thursday on the proclamations by former Govs. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and Bill Owens, a Republican, saying they violate the Constitution's provisions for religious liberty.

The three-judge panel ruled unanimously that such a state-sponsored proclamation sends a message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado's political community, according to the Denver Post.

"In doing so, they undermine the premise that the government serves believers and nonbelievers equally," Judge Steven Bernard wrote in a 73-page decision.

The six Day of Prayer proclamations – from 2004 to 2009 -- are "predominantly religious," wrote Judges Alan Loeb and Nancy Lichtenstein.

The court also said the proclamations sometimes included biblical verses and religious themes, effectively making a government endorsement of a religion.

The ruling stems from a 2008 case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The National Day of Prayer is held each year the first Thursday of May, as designated by Congress. Its constitutionality also is being challenged by the foundation. The group's first challenge was dismissed in April 2011 by a federal appellate court.

The Colorado appeals court returned the case to the trial court to consider a permanent injunction on the day, also held on the first Thursday in May, according to the newspaper.

The office of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said it would talk with the state attorney general before considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.