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Old 01-02-2009, 04:52 PM   #1
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Some Want God/Religion Out Of Inauguration

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A number of atheists and non-religious organizations want Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony to leave out all references to God and religion.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, the plaintiffs demand that the words "so help me God" not be added to the end of the president's oath of office.

In addition, the lawsuit objects to plans for ministers to deliver an invocation and a benediction in which they may discuss God and religion.

An advance copy of the lawsuit was posted online by Michael Newdow, a California doctor and lawyer who has filed similar and unsuccessful suits over inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005.

Joining Newdow in the suit are groups advocating religious freedom or atheism, including the American Humanist Association, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and atheist groups from Minnesota; Seattle, Washington; and Florida.

The new lawsuit says in part, "There can be no purpose for placing 'so help me God' in an oath or sponsoring prayers to God, other than promoting the particular point of view that God exists."

Newdow said references to God during inauguration ceremonies violate the Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion.

Newdow and other plaintiffs say they want to watch the inaugural either in person or on television. As atheists, they contend, having to watch a ceremony with religious components will make them feel excluded and stigmatized.

"Plaintiffs are placed in the untenable position of having to choose between not watching the presidential inauguration or being forced to countenance endorsements of purely religious notions that they expressly deny," according to the lawsuit.

Among those named in the lawsuit are Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, who is expected to swear in the new president; the Presidential Inauguration Committee; the Joint Congressional Committee on Inauguration Ceremonies and its chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California; and the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee and its commander, Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe Jr.

The two ministers scheduled to participate in the ceremony also are named: the Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev. Joseph Lowery. The document includes a quotation from Warren on atheists: "I could not vote for an atheist because an atheist says, 'I don't need God.' "

Newdow told CNN that he didn't name President-elect Barack Obama in the suit because in addition to participating as a government official at the ceremony, he possesses rights as an individual that allow him to express religious beliefs.

"If he chooses to ask for God's help, I'm not going to challenge him," Newdow said. "I think it's unwise."

Newdow said that as a member of a racial minority, Obama should have respect for atheists, who also are members of a minority.

Newdow said religious references in the inauguration ceremony send a message to non-believers.

"The message here is, we who believe in God are the righteous, the real Americans," he said.

Newdow said it's unconstitutional to imply that atheists and others are not as good.

He acknowledged that his suit is unlikely to be successful.

"I have no doubt I'll lose," he said, adding that he hoped to eventually succeed through appeals and hoped future inauguration ceremonies would exclude religious references.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:31 PM   #2
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If Obama wants to mention God during his inauguration, then that's his decision. Its his inauguration, not the atheists.
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Old 01-02-2009, 06:46 PM   #3
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If Obama wants to mention God during his inauguration, then that's his decision. Its his inauguration, not the atheists.
Bingo.

And this works both ways, of course.
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Old 01-02-2009, 06:53 PM   #4
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I'd love for all the god crap to disappear from the inaguration and money and various oaths and all sorts of things, but it's not going to happen so I just ignore it.
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Old 01-02-2009, 06:54 PM   #5
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If Obama wants to mention God during his inauguration, then that's his decision. Its his inauguration, not the atheists.
The inauguration ought to represent all Americans, including non-theists, the first amendment guarantees a separation of church and state; having a candidate use the taxpayer funded ceremony to endorse the existence of a God which looks after America could be seen as a violation of that.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:38 PM   #6
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The inauguration ought to represent all Americans, including non-theists, the first amendment guarantees a separation of church and state; having a candidate use the taxpayer funded ceremony to endorse the existence of a God which looks after America could be seen as a violation of that.

Not if you understand that the First Amendment was intended to only prohibit the federal government from establishing a national church or granting legal preferences for a particular religion or denomination. The Founders wanted religion to flourish in America and saw, from examples in Europe, government as the greatest obstacle to that.

And has it worked. 200 years on and Americans are overwhelming religious of their own freewill and diversity of belief has never been greater.

Which is why atheists are in such a pissy mood lately. This isn't supposed to be happening in a modern society.

I say, God bless our founders and God bless our new president.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:39 PM   #7
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If Obama wants to mention God during his inauguration, then that's his decision. Its his inauguration, not the atheists.
The inauguration and the presidency do not belong to the president. As the president, he represents all Americans, not just Christian Americans, even if Christians are the majority.

That being said ...

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I'd love for all the god crap to disappear from the inaguration and money and various oaths and all sorts of things, but it's not going to happen so I just ignore it.
... I agree.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:53 PM   #8
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And has it worked. 200 years on and Americans are overwhelming religious of their own freewill and diversity of belief has never been greater.
That's why Warren should pray in the name of Allah, or maybe Vishnu. I'm sure the diversity would be celebrated across America with goodwill.
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:54 PM   #9
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Not if you understand that the First Amendment was intended to only prohibit the federal government from establishing a national church or granting legal preferences for a particular religion or denomination. The Founders wanted religion to flourish in America and saw, from examples in Europe, government as the greatest obstacle to that.

And has it worked. 200 years on and Americans are overwhelming religious of their own freewill and diversity of belief has never been greater.

Which is why atheists are in such a pissy mood lately. This isn't supposed to be happening in a modern society.

I say, God bless our founders and God bless our new president.
Endorsing a monotheism is endorsing a particular set of religions, what about polytheistic religions like Hinduism?

If you champion faith based schemes the discrimination is more clear, no elected government will hand out money to satanists or pagans to do charity work because it would be bad press; that is a religious test for public funds which ought to undermine your entire enterprise.

The secularists are saying that the public funds should be spent on non-sectarian projects. That the government shouldn't be giving handouts to churches which bring out the vote (when Obama is giving money to leftist churches around election time you should have a problem with it). If this logic is followed having hucksters like Warren being given a platform payed by public funds to explicitly endorse a particular religion is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. It would be alright if he gets on stage and speaks about the importance of working together, of having some form of faith, or loving other human beings; but when he prays to God, specifically the Christian God, it goes over the line.

You have this strange revisionist history where the most influential founding fathers were churchgoing Christians who all wanted to have more traditional Christianity in the public sphere when the truth is much more complicated.

I am not claiming that they were atheists, but they were first and foremost secularists, and if we take Jefferson at his word he endorsed a wall of separation between church and state which you obviously oppose.

A government which doesn't promote religion or persecute religion is a very good model which very few countries actually have (America may be the only one on paper). This hands off approach goes beyond just not establishing a state church and ensures maximum freedom of belief and association. A secular state protects your religious liberties as much as it protects unbelief, and is a good means of maximising happiness
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:56 PM   #10
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I think some atheists are in danger of becoming a mirror image to the kind of obsessive one-note zealots who'd die in a ditch to see 'in God we trust' on a bank note or kids standing to pray at school. Which is to say, this obsession with not mentioning God in public, even if the context is not evangelising (which I really would have a problem with), but merely a cultural feature that one would expect to see in a nation with a history that has included, well, Christianity of various kinds.

There are aspects of the meeting of God and earthly power in America that I would find troubling (the apparent influence of the religious right under Bush, and perhaps, Reagan). This is not one of them.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:04 PM   #11
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It's pretty low on the scale of issues, but these arguments do a good job of raising awareness; when various groups make a grab for unwarranted influence of religion in government they justify it on the basis of cultural artifacts that hang around, even though lawsuits like this inevitably fail they let people know that it is a secular country with a diversity of opinion.

As far as kids being made to pray in schools I fail to see how that isn't an important issue, in an Australian context it is evangelism and it is state sponsored.

When it comes to atheists being militant or fundamentalist (you know, the ones that don't believe in God 7 days a week), that equivalence with religious zealots is usually unjustified. I do get uncomfortable with people who drop God and treat materialism like a religion without thinking about the issues and implications, and I am well aware of the dangers that may be present in a Godless society. But when it comes to a secular state, which guarantees a freedom of choice and doesn't persecute any religions I think even the most rabid belief hating atheist would be promoting a good cause.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:10 PM   #12
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The inauguration and the presidency do not belong to the president. As the president, he represents all Americans, not just Christian Americans, even if Christians are the majority.
True, but Obama can't please everyone. He can't please the 85-90% of Americans who believe in a god, and he can't please the rest who do not. He might as well do what is best for him.

And with all the troubles he's going to be having as President, he might as well say "so help me God"
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:10 PM   #13
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True, but Obama can't please everyone.
That's for sure!
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:11 PM   #14
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True, but Obama can't please everyone. He can't please the 85-90% of Americans who believe in a god, and he can't please the rest who do not. He might as well do what is best for him.
Statistically speaking he could maximise his pleasing power by getting Angelina Jolie to speak.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:17 PM   #15
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There are aspects of the meeting of God and earthly power in America that I would find troubling (the apparent influence of the religious right under Bush, and perhaps, Reagan). This is not one of them.
And it is counterproductive anyway.

Religion is the best means of turning people away from God. Give America another couple of hundred years (if humanity gets that far) and let's see where we're at. I'm pretty confident in predicting a much more secular society.
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