Atheists sue over inaugural prayer


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A group of atheists has sued to prevent any prayer or references to God at Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony.

The group of 10 atheist organizations and 18 individuals includes Michael Newdow, well known for his earlier lawsuits challenging the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Washington Post reported. Similar suits by Newdow failed in 2001 and 2005.

Defendants named in the suit, filed in federal court in Washington, included Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — who administers the oath — as well as Rick Warren and Rev. Jospeh Lowery, who are scheduled to deliver the invocation and benediction, respectively.

In addition to arguing that the prayers scheduled to be delivered would be unconstitutional, the suit also argues that the phrase "so help me God" should be eliminated from the oath because it is not mentioned as part of the oath in the Constitution. The phrase has been recited since the inaugural of Franklin Roosevelt.

The invocation at the inauguration has already been a source of controversy because of Obama’s choice of Warren to deliver it. Liberal activists have decried his church’s attitudes toward gays and lesbians and recent comments he made comparing gay marriage to pedophilia and incest.

Recommended from JTA