Atheists' Inaugural Prayer Challenge Denied -- Again

Appeals court dismisses atheists' case

By Kelvin Robinson
|  Friday, May 7, 2010  |  Updated 7:31 PM EDT
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Atheists' Inaugural Prayer Challenge Denied -- Again

AFP/Getty Images

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For the third time in a row, a prominent atheist lawyer from California has failed to strip prayer and religious elements from presidential inaugurations.

Michael Newdow filed suit to stop Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. from using the words "so help me God" when he administered the oath to then President-elect Barack Obama last year. He also wanted to stop ministers from saying prayers at the event and eliminate religious elements from future inaugurations.

A three-judge panel on Friday upheld the dismissal of that lawsuit. Two judges said it was too late to act on President Obama's inauguration since it already happened. They also said the court can't block religious elements at future events when participants aren't yet known.

The third judge said long-standing practices, such as prayers and the phrase "so help me God" during the oath are constitutional.

Newdow has tried and lost in similar challenges in 2001 and 2005.

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