(Washington, DC, April 9, 2009)
Attorneys for the 255 individual and 19 organizational plaintiffs in Newdow v. Roberts filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today. The lawsuit challenges government infusion of religion into Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies—specifically challenging the addition of “so help me God” to the constitutionally prescribed presidential oath of office and the inclusion of religious prayers in the invocation and benediction such as those delivered by Reverend Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery at the 2009 ceremony. The plaintiffs contend that these practices constitute a government endorsement of religion, and thereby violate their First Amendment rights.
“We’re confident in the legal merits of this case,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This is foundational litigation aimed at defending central principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”
On March 12th, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that prior federal court decisions preclude lead plaintiff Michael Newdow from challenging the issue of whether he has standing to contest the utterance of prayer at the Presidential Inaugural ceremony. Judge Walton also ruled that all plaintiffs lack standing to pursue any of the relief they are requesting. The plaintiffs will be challenging both of these rulings on appeal.
“Court decisions throughout the land have universally held that persons who witness government sponsored prayers and claimed to have been harmed by them have had standing to challenge the endorsements of religion by government. Our plaintiffs should be treated no different in challenging the grandest of all American ceremonies: the inauguration of the president of the United States,” said Bob Ritter, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center who filed the notice of appeal.
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 a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.