Judge Refuses to Stop Inauguration Prayers and Oath’s ‘God’ Reference
Posted Jan 16, 2009 7:16 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal judge has refused atheists’ request for an injunction barring inauguration prayers and the words “so help me God” in the presidential oath.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of Washington, D.C., said Barack Obama had a right to free speech and could cite God in his oath, the Associated Press reports. Walton also said he didn’t think prayer during the inauguration ceremony "is somehow going to give the impression that the government is endorsing religion,” according to the AP report.
Walton said "ceremonial speech" at the presidential inauguration is essentially no different from legislative prayers permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court, Christianity Today reports on its Politics Blog.
A group of atheists led by Michael Newdow, who unsuccessfully sued to remove God from the Pledge of Allegiance, wanted Walton to order Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. not to add the words to the inaugural oath. Walton balked at the request during a hearing Thursday, according to Christianity Today.
"I can tell the chief justice what he can do?" Walton asked.
"The chief justice is not above the law," Newdow answered.