Last month, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by a group of atheists (led by the infamous atheist Michael Newdow who also challenged “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance), challenging the use of the phrase “So help me God” used at the end of the President’s inaugural speech.
This suit originally came about before President Obama’s inaugural ceremony in January, 2009, asking a federal judge to block the use of the phrase at the inauguration. In addition, this group asked that clergy be barred from conducting an invocation and benediction at the ceremony.
A federal judge claimed that the atheists did not have proper standing to bring this case, and so they were denied.
Later, the atheist group amended the case, seeking to bar all religious reference from the 2013 and 2017 inaugurations. They claimed that these statements amounted to governmental support of religion, which they believed would violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The case was filed against the chief justice, prospective prayer leaders, and inaugural committee members.
The appeals court dismissed the case, stating that the President or President-elect decides the content of the inaugural ceremony. Thus, none of the individuals named in the case had the power to change the content, and since the atheist group did not name the President or President-elect, the case was dismissed.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal underscored an important point: