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-Atheists Sue to Remove God From Inaugural

by Dr. D ~ December 31st, 2008

George Washington

(-George Washington via Wikipedia)


Atheist Michael Newdow and a group of 17 atheist individuals along with 10 different atheist groups are seeking a court injunction to remove any reference to God at the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama. The atheists are alleging that such references are unconstitutional violating the separation between church and state.

They are seeking to eliminate the prayers traditionally given during the inauguration ceremony and particularly to eliminate the traditional phrase, “so help me God”, from the actual oath.

Dr. Newdow failed in similar legal challenges to the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations of President George W. Bush.

Response: Newdow is a publicity hound for sure. Fortunately I can’t find even one legal expert that gives the atheists any chance of success in their current challenge.

Prayers and the phrase- “so help me God” have been a part of the inauguration ceremony from the very beginning with the swearing-in of the first President- George Washington.

A majority of the framers of the Constitution were alive at the time and many were present at the first inauguration. Not one of them objected to the Prayers or the references to God. Obviously their understanding of the ‘separation of church and state’ was considerably different than Dr. Newdow’s et al.            *Top

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8 Responses to -Atheists Sue to Remove God From Inaugural

  1. Minnesota Atheists Join Michael Newdow to Seek Injunction | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

    […] -Atheists Sue to Remove God From Inaugural […]

  2. Casey Swings and Misses | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

    […] -Atheists Sue to Remove God From Inaugural […]

  3. OD Today: 1 January 2009 « Online Discernment Today

    […] Davis on an attempt by Michael Newdow and an unnamed coalition of atheist groups to remove any reference to God from […]

  4. Mike Haubrich, FCD

    Many legal scholars do dismiss the likelihood of our success, but even if we are tilting at windmills, we recognize that secular groups are tryting to reverse the trend of governmental entanglement with relgion. It’s a double-edge sword, which is what John Leland, one of the Baptist Framers was warning his fellow Founders such as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams about.

    What is being implied here is that atheists are protesting that we are “offended” by public prayer, and that we should merely accede by turning away during the invocation and the benediction. While some may be offended by prayer, the larger portion are alarmed by the government-sponsored prayer (and it is limited to Christians in this particular ceremony, so Jews, Hindus, and Muslims are also being excluded.)

    We may be tilting at windmills, but there is an important principle of constitutional republic governance. The Bills of Rights in the 1st Ten Amendments are safeguards against the passions of the majority to overrule the rights of the minority, and that is the clear intent of the Establishment Clause. That the majority of Christians fail to recognize this after two hundred and nineteen years since their adoption by the states, speaks to the unwillingness of the majority to accept Republican rule, of by and for the people.

    While the phrase “Wall of Separation” appears nowhere in the Constitution, it is an important explanation by Jefferson to the Baptists in Danbury of what the aim of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses were to be. Asking us to tune out during the prayer is an abridgment of the Free Exercise clause, asking the Christian God to bless the administration is a clear violation of the Establishment clause.

    I would welcome a whole host of religious services during Inauguration Week, as this is a customary way for people to celebrate. Nobody is asking to take that away from churches and separate non-governmental functions.

    We may lose this battle, but we will continue to raise the issue at each inauguration until the majority finally realizes that the Constitution must be respected in its totality.

    Good day to you, Happy New Year, and congrats on getting a placement link at CBCnews.ca. It’s kind of a thrill, isn’t it?

  5. Dr. D

    Mike: Thanks for your perspective and for visiting. Though we may continue to disagree on the Establishment clause I do appreciate your attitude. Happy New Year.

  6. Atheists Talk, January 4, 2008 | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

    […] -Atheists Sue to Remove God From Inaugural […]

  7. Nick Godilo-Godlevsky

    I’m not sure where the author of this article got his information, but some of it appears to be incorrect. According to Wikipedia, whether Washington uttered the religious codicil is dubious; the only contemporaneous account that fully reproduced his oath omits it. It further states that during Chester Arthur’s inauguration, the Chief Justice did not say those words (although Arthur himself did), which implies that prior to 1881, it was not an ‘official’ part of the oath (and it remains unofficial, since it is not required by the Constitution). Finally, it appears that Theodore Roosevelt concluded his oath with the phrase “and thus I swear”, not with “so help me God”. The fact that the framers of the Constitution omitted any religious reference in the oath has very significant implications; yes, clearly, their understanding of the separation of church and state was quite different from that of the author of this article. If you’re going to defend your point of view, please don’t do it with misinformation.

  8. Dr. D

    Misinformation? Hardly–that is for folks like you who are trying to rewrite our history. After 43 presidents that is all you have? Two slight deviations and maybe the Washington tradition is dubious?

    Re: “..their understanding of the separation of church and state was quite different from that of the author of this article.”–Have you ever read any of the inaugural addresses? The First Washington Inaugural Address is in character with the tradition. Here are a few quotes:

    “…it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. ”

    “…since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;…”

    Washington ends with this:

    “I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.”

    -In closing: you cite Wikipedia as a source—I counter with the venerable LA Times as support for the Washington Tradition:

    “Faith has ushered in presidents since Washington said ‘so help me God,’…”

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