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Humanist Legal Center Files Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Newdow Case

Washington, D.C., Sept. 27, 2010

Today Michael Newdow – a well-known atheist and plaintiff in a legal case that challenges the phrase "So Help Me God" in the presidential oath of office – asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the federal judiciary has the power to halt government-sponsored religious practices at presidential inaugural ceremonies.

Newdow filed a petition for writ of certiorari, challenging a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that his complaint was not redressable by the courts.

"Our system of government is founded on the rule of law -- that it is sometimes necessary for the judiciary to determine if the executive and judicial branches are abiding by the law," said Bob Ritter, staff attorney of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association, and co-counsel with Newdow. "The court of appeals has essentially reversed this approach."

Newdow's case was originally filed in December 2008 to halt the oath administrator's addition of the phrase "so help me God" to the constitutionally prescribed presidential oath and the inclusion of sectarian prayers in the invocation and benediction of the 2009 inauguration of President Obama and the 2013 and 2017 ceremonies.

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton had ruled on March 12, 2009 that all plaintiffs in Newdow v. Roberts lacked standing to pursue such cases. And on May 7, 2010, a three-judge panel issued an order affirming Judge Walton's order dismissing the case for lack of standing.

"The U.S. Supreme Court should grant the request of over 250 injured plaintiffs to hear the case which deals with the fundamental issue of whether the courts have the power to enforce liberties guaranteed by the Constitution," said Ritter. "Mike Newdow and I continue to firmly believe that the religious practices of presidential inaugural ceremonies run afoul of the First Amendment, and the courts have the judicial power to declare these acts unconstitutional and enjoin such practices from occurring at future ceremonies."

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.

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