The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is asking a federal appeals court to uphold the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the phrase "so help me God" in the presidential inaugural oath and in prayers at the inauguration ceremony.
"The federal district court correctly dismissed this suit and we're confident that the federal appeals court will uphold that decision," said ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow after his law firm filed its amicus brief Thursday. "This legal challenge has no merit and is nothing more than a continuation of a flawed attempt to remove all religious references and observances from American public life. This continuing challenge has wasted untold judicial resources-resources that are clearly needed in cases involving real threats to American liberties."
This past January, just days before the presidential inauguration, a federal district court had rejected a lawsuit that had been filed the month before by some 30 plaintiffs, including California atheist Michael Newdow, who previously attempted to remove "under God" from public schools' recitals of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
Specifically, the court refused to block the inaugural prayer saying the plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to show harm as a result of the prayers.
In its brief, the ACLJ argues that the legal challenge is without merit and urges the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to affirm the lower court decision dismissing Newdow's suit.
The amicus brief states that "Newdow has filed no less than nine lawsuits, and has wasted untold judicial resources.”
“His targeting of religious expression at Presidential inaugurations is particularly meritless given the controlling decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983)," the Christian conservative legal group added.
According to court records, Newdow filed his appeal on April 9 – about one month after the District of Columbia District Court entered an order to dismiss the case, concluding that the California atheist is precluded from challenging the issue of whether he has standing to contest the utterance of prayer at the Presidential Inaugural ceremony based on prior judicial determinations that he lacks standing.
The court also found that none of the plaintiffs have standing to pursue any of the relief they were requesting.