Atheist Takes Inaugural Prayer Case to Supreme Court

With only two days remaining until President Bush’s inauguration service, and with famed atheist Michael Newdow continuing his challenge to inaugural prayers, Christian groups are offering prayers, preparing court briefs and planning out prayerful rallies in support of religious freedom.

According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Newdow is filing his petition on January 18 with the Supreme Court to ask them to place a stay any Inaugural Prayer activities on Inauguration Day, January 20. Newdow’s plea to the Supreme Court is an extension of his earlier failed attempts to remove prayers from the Inaugural service; Newdow request for an injunction on clergy prayers was rejected last Friday by a federal district court, and his appeal was also rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit.

According to the ACLJ, which prepared a brief to support inaugural prayer, Tuesday’s petition with the Supreme Court is a “critically important phase of the case.”

“Under Supreme Court rules, one Justice could issue a stay or it could be referred to the entire nine Justices. If one Justice decides to render an opinion in the case, Michael Newdow will then have another opportunity to seek out one additional Justice to try to get the stay,” explained Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ. “I anticipate that a quick referral to the entire nine Justices will be made and that a quick response will come from the Court either late this afternoon or first thing in the morning.”

According to Sekulow, the ACLJ’s brief will emphasize two points: first, the brief will rely on the “historical argument that prayer has been included in every Inagural since President Washington; second, the brief will utilize “the language of Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinon on the Pledge of Allegiance case.”

“Dr. Newdow was the plaintiff in that case where Justice O’Connor stated that, It would be ironic indeed if a nation founded by religious refugees would sever the ties that bind it to that history even today,” Sekulow explained.

Meanwhile, across the street from the Supreme Court, staff members of Faith and Action are preparing for an early morning prayer service in thanksgiving to God for the reelection of George W. Bush.

Faith and Action, a conservative Christian group based in Washington, will host a one-hour prayer service at its Capitol Hill headquarters; attendees will then attend the swearing in ceremony and watch the inaugural parade.

"No president is perfect," said Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action, "but George Bush has done more than any recent president to champion what is important to serious Christians of every tradition: The Sanctity of Human Life, the Sanctity of Marriage and the public acknowledgement of God. We're thankful that God heard our cries and gave us four more years of a Bush administration."

The Christian Defense Coalition also said it plans to host a group of Christians that will bring crosses to the Inauguration “to ensure religious freedom is protected.”

The CDC’s decision to purposely bring crosses was made in response to the Department of Justice’s Jan. 17th letter of apology to the group. The letter, which can be viewed at:, clarified that the National Park Service’s regulation of certain items were not meant to single out “crosses …per se.”

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said: "Although we are pleased that the Secret Service regrets the offense taken to their prohibition on crosses and has lifted the unequivocal ban on crosses, there are still many troubling issues that remain. The one of most concern is the fact that Christianity's most sacred symbol has been singled out as the only religious item prohibited. This still amounts to religious and viewpoint discrimination. To ensure the First Amendment is protected we will be there on the public sidewalk with crosses at the Inauguration. The Christian Defense Coalition will also work diligently to rewrite the prohibition on crosses in the National Park Service regulations."