Barry, the federal district court in Washington reached the only conclusion it could: the court decided it could not step in and stop the prayers scheduled for the Presidential inauguration next week and cannot prevent President-elect Obama from ending his oath with the phrase, “so help me God.”
In a decision issued last night, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton concluded he did not have the authority to order Obama not to say those words, saying the President had a right to free speech. The Judge also questioned whether he could order Chief Justice Roberts, who administers the oath of office, what to say or what not to say.
At the same time, Judge Walton also said he didn’t think the prayer at the inaugural ceremony “is somehow going to give the impression that the government is endorsing religion.” That’s exactly what we argued in our amicus brief filed with the court.
This is the correct decision, and while you may not be surprised by the outcome Barry, an attorney with the American Humanist Association, which filed the suit in conjunction with California atheist Michael Newdow, called the decision “profoundly disappointing.”
The attorney told a reporter after the decision that this case is not about atheists merely “feeling offended. There is real harm,” Bob Ritter said. “First, all Americans will be injured on January 20 by the Chief Justice, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and other defendants violating the principle of separation of church and state . . .”
The court disagreed saying the plaintiffs lacked legal standing and failed to show any concrete “harm” that would result from the prayers and phrase being used.
The court got it right and it’s a decision that should stand even if it is appealed.