Local organizers of the National Day of Prayer say a federal judge's recent ruling that the day is unconstitutional will have no impact on plans to celebrate the day here May 6.
There has been no ban on the prayer days since appeals are still pending, and President Barack Obama has said he still intends to recognize the day as well. Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952.
Being able to have a day set aside for prayer, during which public gatherings are held for people to pray together, is a right under the First Amendment, said Rodney Lord, pastor of the Valley Harvest Church in Marietta.
"We appreciate the fact that we still live in a free nation that allows that kind of assembly to happen," he said. "This day is not about which faiths can pray or asking someone who doesn't want to to pray... it's setting aside time for prayer for those who want to pray and having that acknowledged at every level of government."
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, of Wisconsin, said in her ruling that the day amounts to a call for religious action and violates the separation of church and state.
"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," she wrote in her decision.
If you go
What: Marietta's Day of Prayer.
When: Noon, May 6.
Where: Steps of the Washington County Courthouse.
The government should no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan or attend a synagogue, she said.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed against the federal government in 2008 by the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Crabb said her ruling wasn't a judgment on the value of prayer but that she believes the National Day of Prayer crosses a line because "it goes beyond mere acknowledgment of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context."
"In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience," she wrote.
Marietta Mayor Michael Mullen, who traditionally makes a proclamation at Marietta's National Day of Prayer event, said no concerns have ever been expressed to him about the gathering.
"It's held on the courthouse grounds, which is a public space, and in my mind it's certainly important that there is freedom to join together on public property and express a multitude of views," he said. "I've never seen that as a problem and never heard any concerns. When you take things to a national level, it does bring a whole different set of circumstances."
The event in Marietta, which typically draws more than 100 people, is "a beautiful day," Mullen said.
"It's very encouraging when we're all together for the same purpose," said Marian DuVall, one of the organizers of the Marietta event. "I think it's very important to have and it's based on the values of our founding fathers. We have no intention of giving it up."
The Rev. Steven Gedon, of First United Methodist Church in Williamstown, said he was disappointed by Crabb's decision but that the National Day of Prayer would go on as planned at the Williamstown city building as well.
"I think this country was founded on freedom and on prayer," he said. "I hate to see the heart of our country being lost. But in this part of the country I think there's still very strong support of this."