Opinion: Atheists seek restraining order against God for the inauguration.


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America’s most irritating atheist is at again. That tiresome Michael Newdow and a bunch of other anti-God types have filed suit to bar prayer and references to God at President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in on Jan. 20. Newdow also filed lawsuits to remove prayer from President George W. Bush’s inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005, and you may also remember him as the crank who tried to get the phrase “under God” eliminated from the pledge of allegiance.

At least when he went after the pledge of allegiance in 2005 he could halfway make an argument that there is an expectation, particularly for school children, that it be recited regardless of a child’s beliefs. But the oath of office? That’s one person’s vow to make. Millions of people are not being asked to say it too (and in fact should politely keep quiet while he does it).


Named in the suit filed by Newdow, 17 other individuals and 10 groups, according to the Washington Post, are Chief Justice John Roberts, who will administer the oath; Saddleback church Pastor Rick Warren, who will give the invocation; and Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, who will give the benediction. Wow, this inaugural is shaping up to be one big religious hurly-burly. Liberals who support gay marriage are upset because of Warren will have a prominent place at the ceremony. Conservatives are upset because Obama will have a prominent place at the ceremony. And now atheists are upset that God will have a prominent place there, too. Obama wasn’t kidding when he said he’d bring everyone together.

But back to Newdow et al. If you don’t believe God exists, then why doesn’t it follow that phrases like “so help me God” have no meaning? And if that’s the case, then why does something meaningless matter? I have news for Newdow -- even if he managed to bar all religious references from public life it wouldn’t matter. The Soviet Union tried that; all it did was send religious fervor underground until communism ended and it came roaring back.

Besides, what would Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts be expected to do if Obama were to defy a ruling in Newdow’s favor, snatch away the Lincoln Bible and swat him on the hand? Scott Walter, the executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, hit the nail on the head when he 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.