U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Atheist Lawsuit Against Inaugurations

Washington, D.C. – The United States Supreme Court today decided not to hear an appeal by atheists and humanists challenging religious aspects of President Obama’s inauguration. Today’s action means the lawsuit will be dismissed pursuant to a decision by the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the claims were outside the courts’ jurisdiction.

Pacific Justice Institute represented two prominent ministers, Dr. Rick Warren and Dr. Joseph Lowery, Jr., who were named as defendants in the suit because they offered prayers at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. The suit also challenged the traditional use of the phrase “So help me God” following the presidential oath of office.

Today’s action marks another setback for lead plaintiff Michael Newdow, who has filed numerous lawsuits claiming various American traditions are unconstitutional. In March of this year, the Supreme Court turned down a separate appeal by Newdow in a challenge to use of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” on currency. PJI was a successful co-defendant in the motto suit and is opposing Newdow in other active cases attacking recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and tax provisions applicable to ministers.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court marks the end of a long legal nightmare for two of America’s most prominent pastors. This case illustrates the astonishing lengths to which radical atheists like Michael Newdow, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their co-plaintiffs will go to silence religious expression in public life. Fortunately, leaders in government and religion from across the ideological spectrum came together to demonstrate that time-honored American traditions must not be cast aside simply because a handful of people are offended by them. It has been our privilege to successfully represent two of the defendants in this suit, Dr. Rick Warren and Dr. Joseph Lowery, Jr., who together have inspired tens of millions of people and were unfairly targeted in this suit.”