02 January 2009

Lawsuit Seeks to Have "So Help Me God" Removed from Presidential Oath

Who knows-- the way things are going, it might be fitting under the circumstances. It is hard to argue that God is obeyed in any meaningful sense by the majority of our political leaders.

From CNN:

Lawsuit seeks to take 'so help me God' out of inaugural

By Carol CrattyCNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A number of atheists and non-religious organizations want Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony to leave out all references to God and religion.

...In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, the plaintiffs demand that the words "so help me God" not be added to the end of the president's oath of office.

In addition, the lawsuit objects to plans for ministers to deliver an invocation and a benediction in which they may discuss God and religion.

An advance copy of the lawsuit was posted online by Michael Newdow, a California doctor and lawyer who has filed similar and unsuccessful suits over inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005.

Joining Newdow in the suit are groups advocating religious freedom or atheism, including the American Humanist Association, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and atheist groups from Minnesota; Seattle, Washington; and Florida.

The new lawsuit says in part, "There can be no purpose for placing 'so help me God' in an oath or sponsoring prayers to God, other than promoting the particular point of view that God exists."

Newdow said references to God during inauguration ceremonies violate the Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion.

Newdow and other plaintiffs say they want to watch the inaugural either in person or on television. As atheists, they contend, having to watch a ceremony with religious components will make them feel excluded and stigmatized.

"Plaintiffs are placed in the untenable position of having to choose between not watching the presidential inauguration or being forced to countenance endorsements of purely religious notions that they expressly deny," according to the lawsuit.

[...]Newdow said that as a member of a racial minority, Obama should have respect for atheists, who also are members of a minority.

Newdow said religious references in the inauguration ceremony send a message to non-believers.

"The message here is, we who believe in God are the righteous, the real Americans," he said.

Newdow said it's unconstitutional to imply that atheists and others are not as good.
He acknowledged that his suit is unlikely to be successful.

"I have no doubt I'll lose," he said, adding that he hoped to eventually succeed through appeals and hoped future inauguration ceremonies would exclude religious references.


MP said...

Newdow is nuts, so help him God!

Katherine said...

The closing comment "So help me God" is not part of the official oath of office. Each President-Elect is free to use it or not use it. President Elect Obama has decided to use it.

Secondly, the President Elect has the personal right to invite whatever speakers he wants and give them whatever liberty in their remarks he so decides. President Elect Obama has decided to invite two ministers to pray.

The atheists might have a case if any law required these aspects of the ceremony. But no law does. They should respect Barack Obama's preferences and desires.