D.C. Judge Dismisses Atheist Lawsuit Against Inauguration Prayer

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., today dismissed a lawsuit filed by atheist Michael Newdow, the American Humanist Association and others which had claimed that the traditions of saying prayers and “so help me God” at the presidential inauguration were unconstitutional. Newdow had sought to continue the case after his initial request for an injunction was denied four days prior to the inauguration.

In today’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton held that none of the plaintiffs suffered injury from the inaugural prayers, and for that reason they had no legal standing to sue. It is not yet clear whether Newdow and his fellow plaintiffs will appeal the decision.

Among others, the lawsuit had named as inpidual defendants the two pastors chosen to offer prayers at the inauguration, Dr. Rick Warren and Dr. Joseph E. Lowery. The pastors are represented by Pacific Justice Institute.

Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel of Pacific Justice Institute, argued before Judge Walton in January and filed briefs this week urging the court to dismiss the case. Mr. Snider lauded today’s decision, noting, “We feel a special obligation to defend clergy who are sued for offering prayers at government events at the invitation of public officials. It has been our privilege to defend these pastors, and we will continue to do so if this decision is appealed.”

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