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Appeals Court won't block prayer from inaugurations

Once again, a California atheist has tried to keep God out of the presidential inauguration. Once again, a court has ruled that prayer can stay.

Michael Newdow had objected to President Obama’s decision to include the phrase "So help me God" in the presidential oath of office administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday ruled that, with the oath taken more than a year ago, the court had no legal standing to consider its constitutionality.

"Whether the 2009 ceremony’s incorporation of the religious oath and prayers was constitutional may be an important question to plaintiffs, but it is not a live controversy that can avail itself of the judicial powers of the federal courts," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the opinion. "It is therefore moot."

Newdow, a lawyer who has made it his mission to have overtly religious references pulled from government ceremonies and institutions based on the Constitutional promise of separation of church and state, also objected to Obama’s decision to have two ministers offer prayers at the ceremony. Newdow has lost similar challenges to the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations.

This time, Newdow also tried to block future presidents from incorporating prayer in inauguration ceremonies, specifically in 2013 and 2017. But the court ruled against him.

"By naming as defendants all persons the future President could possibly invite to administer an oath, lead a prayer, or help in the planning of these events, plaintiffs are essentially seeking a declaration of their rights accompanied by an injunction against the world," the opinion states. "There is another name for that generally applicable relief: legislation."

Plus, the court said, it’s really up to a President or President-elect to decide what will, or won’t be included. Clergymen or even a Chief Justice participating in the ceremony, the opinion stated, are "powerless" to make that call.

"Therefore, issuing an injunction to prevent them from implementing the future President’s inaugural plan would be folly, akin to enjoining a sound technician from turning the Chief Justice’s microphone on when administering the oath. The defendants, like the sound technician, are not responsible for the offending conduct and the future President could simply find other willing assistants not subject to the injunction to carry out his wishes," the court said. "In other words, he could find someone else to turn the microphone on."

-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  May 7, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Categories:  Maria Glod  
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Atheistic zealots are apparently every bit as obnoxious as religious zealots

Posted by: psst_limbaugh_keep-ranting_satan | May 8, 2010 2:54 AM | Report abuse

All the Constitution says is that the state can't establish an official church. This was in response to the official Church of England, which at the time everybody had to pay taxes to whether they were members or not. There were official churches in other European countries at that time (Roman Catholicism in France, for example). Everybody had to pay taxes to them, too.

That's all that the so-called "separation of church and state" means.

This guy Newdow simply hates religion. If you don't like "so help me God" or "in God we trust" on coins, pass a law against it.

Posted by: corco02az | May 8, 2010 5:44 AM | Report abuse

"All the Constitution says is that the state can't establish an official church."

You don't know what you're talking about. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the government is prohibited not only from promoting one religion over other religions but is also prohibited from promoting religion in general over non-religion.

Newdow was absolutely right.

Posted by: gzhang12 | May 8, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

A moonbat says, "Newdow was absolutely right." Of course. That's why he absolutely lost.

What part of "free exercise" does the intolerant Mr. Nedow not understand?

More importantly, where does he get the idea that it is constitutionally permissible to favor his particular sect over everybody else's?

Posted by: thebump | May 8, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

A moonbat says, "Newdow was absolutely right." Of course. That's why he absolutely lost.

What part of "free exercise" does the intolerant Mr. Newdow not understand?

More importantly, where does he get the idea that it is constitutionally permissible to favor his particular sect over everybody else's?

Posted by: thebump | May 8, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

And once again the Court doesn't feel a need to follow the law. Separation of church and state is the law. They also don't feel a need to follow the gun laws either-it says the right to bear arms, but they let these gun laws stand. It's called activist conservative activist judges. And speaking of which, I still ponder why abortion (murder, too, is illegal) isn't banned. I'm guessing that these conservative judges, stupid as they are, think there is going to be some sort of liberal backlash if they make abortion (murder) illegal.

I find it funny though...all the people that don't understand how Obama became President. These people are wrapped up in the fantasy that 'God' is real and then don't get it how a black guy wins. Hilarious!

Posted by: RobertCurleyJacobs | May 8, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: RobertCurleyJacobs:
"And once again the Court doesn't feel a need to follow the law. Separation of church and state is the law."

...And this has exactly what to do with the issue? I believe you misunderstand the Constitution, sir. It prevents government-run churches.
Where were you when Lincoln's & Washington's national-holiday birthdays were replaced with M.L. Kings? Hew couldn't have done anything for civil rights without Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, but blacks deemed it necessary to put a black man's birthday in place of a white man who saved them from slavery. Is that just? I don't say that any racism intended; it's just as ridiculous as dropping Thanksgiving as a holiday and having instead an Obama's-birthday holiday. So if somebody wants to have a national day of prayer, what's that to you?

"I find it funny though...all the people that don't understand how Obama became President. These people are wrapped up in the fantasy that 'God' is real and then don't get it how a black guy wins. Hilarious!"
Again, something's getting past you. Obama was NOT elected for any values his life has ever shown. He made ignorant people believe that change...ANY what we needed. Obviously, you still haven't read the "medical reform" bill...either that, or you don't have the intelligence God gave a log. NOBODY I know who has read it has continued to support it...period. It's an atrocious bill which will rob you and me to feed the poor, including those too LAZY to work. See :

Every bit of what Mr. Voight said is true. If you don't believe it, then you aren't aware of what's happening in our country right now. The only ones who understand what Obama's doing and still supports him are Muslims or socialists.

God IS real, sir, and it's our country's rejecting Him that allowed Obama to be elected. In fact, I was a dyed-in-the-wool racist until GOD changed that in outright miracle, to be sure! Since this change...over 30 years ago...I've FOUGHT for civil rights, so don't you DARE say my distrust of and lack of faith in Obama to do anything useful for our country is RACISM. This really shows the ignorance or YOUR racism. It's terribly ignorant to blame somebody's opinion on your insecurities. I don't CARE about what race Obama is, so drop the phony racist drivel. I don't mind a black being elected at all; it's a phony like Obama I can't abide.

Posted by: flipper49 | May 8, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The Constitution of the United States reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (First Amendment).

The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, are significant. They limit the power of government; by so doing they protect the rights of the people.

The government may not finance, advocate, endorse, or sanction a particular religion; this is different from giving government the power to prohibit or ban religion or religious expression.

The establishment and free exercise clauses do not empower Congress (or the courts, or the government) to control or limit religious expression.

To do so would turn the first amendment on its head.

Posted by: graydonstephenson | May 8, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I think the other aspect or element in this debate that gets missed has to do with the philosophical "first principles" from which the founding documents are based on.

The first principles are found in the Declaration of Independence, they simply and elegantly say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Restated, the basic rights that we hold true, that our forefathers, and brothers, and fathers, and sisters have died for come not from man, but come from our Creator, God. Put another way, our basic human rights do not come from the government, they come from God.

What the atheists have not offered in their war on the Creator and the first principles of our government and society, is what are their first principles? We know that marxism, and other forms of totalitarian governments put the first principles in the hands of the state only, that man only gets those rights that the state benevolently decides to bestow, and that these rights can change depending on who is in power.

So if the atheists want to change the first principles I think they are going to have to create a whole new constitution.

To quote James Wilson – Signor of the Constitution, US Supreme Court Justice, who wrote some of the first commentaries on the Constitution.

“Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine. Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The Divine Law…forms an essential part of both.

If you want a godless country then you need a godless constitution that does not recognize human rights as coming from the Creator. That is not the Constitution we have today. One does not need to be religious at all to believe a Creator, one can come to this belief on reason alone.

Posted by: kthhken | May 8, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Any person can file a lawsuit to eliminate the words "So help me God" from the oath of public office. It is easy to understand why any atheist would want to eliminate references to God.

What is difficult to understand is the legal grounds based on the U.S. Constitution’s reference to separation of church and state. The fault is with the U.S. Courts. Legal standards have been compromised by liberal political social activities who interpret law based on humanistic ideals rather than faith in God.

Our U.S. Constitution was written by persons with faith in God as written in the Bible. They intended a government of one Nation under God. If you want a Godless Nation, move to a communist country. Or, if not a Christian Nation, then move to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

To keep our Nation under God, vote for a Republican candidate who has the courage as Sarah Palin did to say, as the American people, say a Nation under God and swear allegiance on the Bible because you believe the Bible is the Holy word of God.

Posted by: klausdmk | May 8, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I think it should be up to the person giving the oath what/whom they choose to swear by. Presumably, an atheist won't swear by God, but a Christian will. Whatever makes the oath most meaningful to the person giving it seems appropriate to me. All I care is that they uphold it!!!

Posted by: AnonyMiss | May 8, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Post got this slightly wrong, it is not a question of standing (court's don't use standing, only parties have to have standing). It is a matter of the case or controversy requirement for federal courts, as they do not give advisory opinions, Obama has been sworn in, and we don't know who will be sworn in in 2013. So there is no defendant.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | May 8, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I am sick and tired of Michael Newdow trying to make a name for himself. This guy is a loser. He lost his license to practice law because of something he did that was unethical. He used his daughter and his wife as an excuse to get God taken out of every aspect of public life, even though his wife and daughter wanted no part of it. He was on anti-depressant medication until he stopped taking it. Nobody wants to hire him because he's a trouble maker. He needs to get back on his meds and get out of the business of trying to eliminate God from everything just because he hates God.

Posted by: georgana | May 8, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

It is said that every time some one has his rights upheld some one else loses theirs. This guy should remember what happened to Madelyn Murray.

Posted by: peep1935 | May 8, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

If there is a god, it doesn't care about politics or government.

Swearing on a book of fairy tales is medieval at best.

Keep religion out of the public venue, period.

Posted by: veerle1 | May 8, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Veerle1 wrote: "If there is a god, it doesn't care about politics or government"

I would love to be wowed by Veerle1's metaphysical arguments to support his assertion. But I guess on message boards anyone can call a circle square.

Clearly he disagrees with the first principles of the Declaration of Independence which doesn't have anything to do with religion at all. It is a philosophical statement derived from natural theology (what we can know about God using reason alone) that says man's natural rights do not come from man, they come from the Creator. Now, if you disagree with this then it is incumbent on you to articulate precisely where man get his natural rights, and oh by the way you better start drafting a new constitution because the one we are operating under now is not going to work for the philosophy of your theology.

The state cannot give me my natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These come from God. This is the first principle upon which our country is founded. If you want to see a government that doesn't agree with this all you have to do is look at North Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and the former Soviet Union. There the state determines what you are and what if any rights you have. If you are more comfortable in that environment where God has absolutely ZERO to say in the public square then I encourage you to go there.

Posted by: kthhken | May 8, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's the problem with the atheist position. It is just a denial of reason. It basically says that I only believe that all that is real is material. I will only believe what I can verify using the scientific method. The problem here is that you can't devise an experiment that can demonstrate that all that is real is material. You have to have a broader understanding and use of reason using your mind, which civilization has done since the ancient Greeks but somehow we have forgotten.

Look the fundamental question is either you believe the authors of the Declaration of Independence that our natural rights come from God and not the state or you don't. Totalitarian governments do not believe it. America was founded on this principle. And it is imnportant because the state is not to create laws which violate these natural rights. Now if you say there is no Creator, you are saying there are no natural rights, and our entire Constitution as written has to be discarded. Then you have to create a government which says these are the rights we will recognize and then of course, these can change depending on who is in power. The social compact falls apart in this scenario because I no longer have free will, the state determines everything for me. Sorry, I don't want to live under that type of government, and fortunately, I don't have to, because I live in a country where the first principles of my natural are recognized as coming not from the state, but from the Creator.

Posted by: kthhken | May 8, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

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