If the Freedom From Religion Foundation has its way, there will be no time for prayer at President Barack Obama's inauguration next month.
The Madison-based group has joined a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the Presidential Inaugural Committee from sponsoring prayers at the official inauguration ceremony.
The Revs. Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery have been invited to the deliver the invocation and benediction at the event. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that having clergy speak at the event is unconstitutional. They are not against private ceremonies that feature prayers, but they say prayer at a public ceremony paid for in part by taxpayers is an insult to atheists.
"Interlarding those ceremonies with clergy who espouse sectarian religious dogma does not unite, but rather divides, our citizenry," the legal complaint reads. "Similarly, instead of instilling confidence in our governmental structure, it tears at the very foundation upon which that structure is built."
The group is also seeking to eliminate the words "so help me God" from the presidential oath of office. They claim the phrase was not part of the original oath of office. The phrase was added as part of an unauthorized altercation by a Supreme Court Chief Justice that became the norm in 1933, according to the group's research. They claim the phrase violates the Constitution developed by the Founding Fathers. They say only the president has the power to insert the language.
The legal complaint states: " 'The government may not . . . lend its power to one or the other side in controversies over religious authority or dogma.' By placing 'so help me God' in its oaths and sponsoring prayers to God, government is lending its power to one side of perhaps the greatest religious controversy: God's existence or nonexistence."
Contributed by Jason Fischer-WIBA
AUDIO: Brian Moon reports (MP3 :55)