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WASHIGNTON (RNS) Atheist lawyer Michael Newdow said Tuesday (May 11) he plans to appeal a court decision that said his bid to halt prayers and the words “so help me God” in presidential inaugurations are now moot.
“We will be petitioning for a rehearing,” said Newdow, who represented himself and other atheists in the case. “If the ruling stands, it seems to me that the executive branch of government will henceforth be able to trample on individual rights with impunity.”
In a May 7 ruling, Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the issues of the case are no longer timely.
“Whether the 2009 ceremony’s incorporation of the religious oath and prayers was constitutional may be an important question to plaintiffs, but it is not a live controversy that can avail itself of the judicial powers of the federal courts,” she wrote.
In a concurring opinion, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said the court could not discount either the religious significance of the prayers challenged in the case or the “sincere objections” of Newdow and the other atheists. But he said neither “so help me God” in a presidential oath nor the inaugural prayers could be considered proselytizing.

— Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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