Judge Rejects Atheist's Inauguration Prayer Lawsuit

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A district court judge has rejected the case brought by an atheist who challenged the inclusion of prayer and the Bible in the upcoming presidential inauguration ceremonies.

Michael Newdow, also known for his lawsuit to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, filed the latest lawsuit last month arguing that allowing President Bush to use prayer during his Jan. 20th inauguration is unconstitutional.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said, "there is a strong argument, that at this late date, the public interest would best be served by allowing the 2005 Inauguration ceremony to proceed on January 20 as planned."

Granting Newdow's request would cause "considerable disruption in a significant, carefully planned, national event, requiring program and other adjustments," Bates added.

"The material change requested by Newdow in an accepted and well-established historical pattern of short prayers or religious references during presidential inaugurations, based on this last-minute challenge, is not likely to serve the public interest," Bates wrote in the 50-page ruling.

According to Bates, clergy prayers have been included at every presidential inauguration since 1937 and prayer or religious reference has been part of every inauguration starting with the first president George Washington in 1789.

This is the second inauguration in a row that Newdow has challenged on the issue of prayer. He lost his first case in two federal courts.

"We're pleased that the court made the appropriate determination in rejecting Newdow's argument and clearing the way for prayer to be offered at the Presidential inauguration continuing a time-honored tradition," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has challenged Newdow's lawsuits in the past.

"Michael Newdow apparently will continue his legal quest to remove prayer from the ceremony, but we are confident this flawed legal challenge will fail in the appeals process," Sekulow said.

See Also:
Bush's Remarks on Religion Offends Atheists (Jan. 14, 2005)

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