State Attorneys General Oppose Challenge to Inauguration Ceremony

January 9, 2009

An update on the   recently-filed lawsuit challenging the use of prayer and the addition of the words "so help me God" at this month’s Presidential Inauguration:  yesterday all 50 state Attorneys General,   led by Texas AG Greg Abbott and joined by the AG for the Virgin Islands, filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief defending prayer and the addition of the words "so help me God" in the oath at Barack Obama’s inauguration.    The brief argues : "Prayers and oaths invoking God have been incorporated into public inaugural ceremonies throughout our Nation’s history and at every level of government. Plaintiffs have not presented a single legal precedent holding unconstitutional such historical customs and practices."  It also cites legal authority from 26 states incorporating the phrase "so help me God" (or a similar phrase) into oaths of office for state officials.

The Texas AG office’s press release states: "The constitutionality of public acknowledgements of God by governmental institutions has been repeatedly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In   Marsh v. Chambers , the high court upheld the constitutionality of opening every legislative session with a clergy-led prayer. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has noted, such religious observances are used for ‘solemnizing public occasions, expressing confidence in the future, and encouraging the recognition of what is worthy of appreciation in society.’"

The federal district court for the District of Columbia has scheduled a hearing next week.  Stay tuned . . .