Michael Gaynor
God belongs at presidential inaugural ceremonies
By Michael Gaynor
January 4, 2009

In what Gwen Ifill calls "the Age of Obama," will Newdow's sinister efforts fare better?

Once against, atheist Michael Newdow is asserting that his atheist sensibilities require that an end be put to the practice of having prayer at presidential inaugurations.

According to Newdow, the tender sensibilities of a tiny atheist minority should trump all.

This tyranny-of-a-tiny-minority argument is utter nonsense, of course. America's Constitution does not give atheists a veto power.

America's Declaration of Independence humbly and gratefully acknowledged God as Creator and source of the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

America's Constitution acknowledged God too. Its preamble declared that it was ordained and established to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." It was dated "the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord on thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven...."

The First Amendment ban on Congress making a "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" was intended to prevent the establishment of a national church, like the Church of England, not to make agnosticism or atheism the national religion or to ban prayer at presidential inaugrations.

"Atheists Sue to Take 'God' Out of Obama Inauguration," Audrey Barrick, Christian Post Reporter:

"After failed attempts to remove prayer from George W. Bush's inauguration ceremonies, Michael A. Newdow, along with other atheists, has once again filed a lawsuit to take God and religion out of the upcoming swearing-in ceremony.

"The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Newdow and 17 other individuals and 10 groups representing atheists who want the words 'so help me God' and other religious references out of the president's oath of office, invocation and benediction.

"'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,' the lawsuit states, according to CNN.

"And according to Newdow, religious references convey the message that 'we who believe in God are the righteous, the real Americans,' he told CNN.

"American Humanist Association, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and atheist groups from Minnesota, Seattle, Washington and Florida are among the groups that band together for the lawsuit. They are suing Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who will administer the oath of office to President-elect Barack Obama in January; several officials in charge of inaugural festivities; megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who will deliver the invocation; and the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, who will deliver the benediction.

"Obama was not named in the suit.

"'If he (Obama) chooses to ask for God's help, I'm not going to challenge him,' Newdow said, according to CNN. 'I think it's unwise.'

"Newdow made similar attempts to take out God from inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005 and was unsuccessful. This time, he believes he'll lose again but hopes to eventually succeed.

"Calling the lawsuit a 'publicity stunt,' Scott Walter, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement, 'Newdow's lawsuit over the inauguration is a lot like the streaker at the Super Bowl: a pale, self-absorbed distraction. And anybody who looks at it carefully can see there's not much there.'

Four years ago, I wrote the following about Newdow's prior suit.

"Having bought a ticket, Michael Newdow thought he was entitled to have prayer barred from President Bush's second inauguration.

"But Newdow failed to stop prayer there.

"Secular extremism could not accomplish that.

"Even United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declined Newdow's invitation to 'protect him' from prayer at the inauguration."

In what Gwen Ifill calls "the Age of Obama," will Newdow's sinister efforts fare better?

© Michael Gaynor


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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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