A federal court has ruled against a lawsuit by the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and said Congress can continue it’s tradition of opening its sessions in prayer.

“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,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI1, said in a statement. “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,” Ryan continued. “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.”

The FFRF sued the House Chaplain, Father Pat Conroy, and the Speaker of the House after Conroy did not allow FFRF Co-President Dan Barker to deliver a guest invocation. Barker was sponsored by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-WI2, but was rejected by Conroy allegedly because of Barker’s atheism. Pocan represents the Madison area where the FFRF is located.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said the prayer does not violate the Establishment clause and that Supreme Court precedent protected the legislative prayer.

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