So help him God
Grand Junction isn’t the only place where atheists are seeking to limit religious references in public activities. When Barack Obama places his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible Jan. 20, and repeats the words “So help me, God,” as he takes the oath to become the nation’s 44th president, he will do so over the objections of a number of atheists.
A lawsuit to prohibit the use of those words in the inauguration ceremony was filed just before New Year’s, with the lead plaintiff being a California man named Michael Newdow.
Readers may recall that Newdow, a few years back, filed a lawsuit to prevent his daughter from having to say the words “under God” when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But Newdow didn’t have legal custody of his daughter and her mother had no objection to the reference to God. Newdow’s case was dismissed.
He’s not likely to have any more success with this lawsuit. He failed to prevent George W. Bush from uttering the same words when he took the presidential oath in 2001 and again in 2005.
Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that such public references to a deity are ceremonial rather than theological, and they serve a legitimate purpose in “solemnizing public occasions.”
Still, Newdow’s continued attempts to remove even a relatively innocuous reference to God from what is arguably the most important public ceremony in our national liturgy shows how eager some atheists are to banish God entirely from government.
But they are on shaky ground on this. As David Waters wrote Wednesday on The Washington Post Web site, “The Constitution protects minority rights, not minority sensibilities.”
Attempting to revoke the words spoken by presidents since George Washington because a few people conjure up some professed offense at the words would disrespect the history of this nation and the presidents who have taken the oath.
When the lawsuit goes before a federal judge Jan. 15, it should be summarily tossed out.