D.C. Judge Denies Request to Halt Inauguration Prayer

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., today denied a request by atheist Michael Newdow to halt prayers at Tuesday’s presidential inauguration.

PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider argued at the hearing on behalf of Pastor Rick Warren, who was named as a defendant because he has been invited to offer the invocation at the inauguration. The lawsuit had urged the court to issue an injunction preventing an invocation and benediction at the ceremony. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed with PJI and refused to stop the prayers. The judge also rejected Newdow’s request for an injunction against Chief Justice Roberts to prevent him from saying “so help me God” at the end of the Presidential oath.

This is the third lawsuit filed by Newdow since 2001 over inaugural prayers – and the third time his claims have been rejected. His long-running lawsuit against the Pledge of Allegiance and more recent attack on the national motto, “In God We Trust,” are currently awaiting decisions in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

PJI President Brad Dacus commented, “Michael Newdow may have thought the third time was the charm with this lawsuit, but thankfully the court agreed with us, and three strikes means he’s out. The very notion that a federal district judge should order either the Chief Justice or the President-elect’s invited clergy what to say or not say is just censorship by another name.”

PJI appreciates the invaluable assistance of attorney J. Stephen Simms, of Simms Showers LLP in the D.C. Metro and Baltimore areas, who served as local counsel in this case.