SocraticGadfly: Atheists' inaugural oath suit gets slapped silly

January 17, 2009

Atheists' inaugural oath suit gets slapped silly

Ignorance of Constitution, logic, legal reasoning, empirical evidence all on file

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton has blocked an atheists’ attempt to force Barack Obama to not say, and Chief Justice John Roberts to ask him to not say, “So help me God” at the end of the inaugural oath. Among other tings, Walton complained about the atheists’ lateness on the suit, not allowing it to be litigated before the inauguration.

In other words, reading between the lines, he kind of hinted that this is a publicity suit, IMO.

For background on the suit by Freedom from Religion Foundation and famous, or infamous, atheist Michael Newdow, go here.

Besides lateness, Newdow and the FFRF have a stunning level of cluelessness about the Constitution whose First Amendment they profess to revere.

As I noted on my initial post on this matter, they’re suing ONLY Roberts, not Obama. That, despite the clear fact that "so help me God," as well as the person administering the oath of office, are both a choice of the new president.

Given that the "so help me God" is not Constitutionally prescribed, it's a matter of individual choice. Therefore, if Obama wants to say "so help me Allah," "so help me Buddha," or "so help me Flying Spaghetti Monster," he has that right. And, the Newdow/FFRF suit could be seen as violating HIS civil rights.

Beyond that, nothing requires the Chief Justice, or ANY Supreme Court justice, to administer the oath of office. I issued a generic challenge for Westley, and others to show me where in the constitution it says that, in my original post; all Westley has done so far is to sputter that I was claiming he never made that claim, when he did, in not so many words, in comments to that post.

Empirical evidence to the contrary? Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by a justice of the peace after Harding's death. LBJ was sworn in by a federal district judge after JFK's assassination.

So, as I also told Westley, the idea that Roberts is causing an “establishment of religion” by adding the phrase for Obama to then repeat falls short on other legal grounds, because he’s not there in an official capacity. Indeed, the Constitution doesn’t require ANY judge to administer the oath. In fact, it doesn’t require any other person at all, the way I read it; I believe Obama could set all sorts of precedent and simply read the oath at noon Jan. 20. The claim comes off like scholastic monks arguing about angels on the head of a pin.

I'm am atheist myself who can point out that other atheists are in fact ignorant of the constitution. And, the ignorance is not about the presidential oath; it's about the First Amendment issue involved.

And it turns out, we haven’t touched all of the ignorance of Newdow, the FFRF, and likely, peole like atheist Internet troll Brian Westley.

Newsweek points out they have a whole crockload of other things wrong in their suit, starting with the fact that they’re suing the wrong branch of government over the wrong oath.

(Update, Oct. 23, 2015. Having now run into Westley on Patheos, on the generally very good Godless in Dixie blog, I'll point out that per Wikipedia's page on Newdow, its section on this suit, I stand by everything I've written.)

The Congressional oath of office DOES have “so help me God” embedded, but, no suit’s being filed there.

Newsweek notes that most of us, including yours truly, may have been passing on an old, old urban legend about Washington adding the phrase, too. (Per USA Today, Chet Arthur in 1881 is the first president documented to have added the phrase.) Newsweek adds that FDR is the first president documented to have an invocation.

But, losing the suit hasn’t stopped Newdow, et al, from continuing to sound like idiots, or “village idiot atheists,” starting with the claim that, as a black person, Obama should be especially sensitive to religious majoritarianism. I haven’t heard the race card played so bluntly since … Bobby Rush in Chicago a month ago!

I noted early in this thread that this is at bottom line a publicity similar suits in 2001 and 2005, both also filed at the last minute, make that clear. And, it’s publicity that good atheism doesn’t need.

Frankly, I think Newdow is as much a gloryhound as American Athiests' Dave Silverman.

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