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."
May 7, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Categories: Maria Glod
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