Prayer has no place at Obama’s inauguration, says US atheists

DAN Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has joined with Michael Newdow – who fought to have the words “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance – in a federal lawsuit to prevent prayers being uttered at Barack Obama’s official inauguration on January 20.

Dan Barker

Dan Barker

Obama ran headlong into controversy when he recently announced his choice of  evangelist Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation.

Gay rights activists immediately protested Obama’s decision to give Warren a prominent role at the swearing-in, because the California megachurch founder supported Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in his home state.

Obama defended his choice, saying he wanted the event to reflect diverse views and insisting he remains a “fierce advocate” of equal rights for gays.

According to this report, the 34-page legal complaint filed by the FFRF also seeks to prevent Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr, from adding the phrase “So help me God” to the presidential oath of office.

Barker told FOX News Radio:

We’re hoping to stop prayer and religious rituals at governmental functions, especially at the inauguration.

The inauguration is not a religious event. It is a secular event of a secular country that includes all Americans, including those of us who are not Christians, including those of us who are not believers.

He said if Obama wants to hold a private religious ceremony, that would be more appropriate than having religious figures up on stage at his swearing in ceremony.

Rick Warren and Barack Obama

Rick Warren and Barack Obama

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, said it’s Obama’s decision whether to include a prayer, not the government’s.

The atheists, while they have every right to practice their atheism, they do not have an absolute right not to be exposed to viewpoints they don’t agree with. So I think this lawsuit has no merit whatsoever.

Meanwhile, a separate argument has erupted over whether Warren should use the “J”  word at the presidential inauguration.

At George W Bush’s 2001 swearing-in, the Revs Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell both invoked Jesus – and this distinctly Christian reference at a national civic event gave considerable offence to many non-Christians.

But evangelicals generally expect their clergymen to use Jesus’ name whenever and wherever they lead prayer. Many conservative Christians say cultural sensitivity goes way too far if it requires religious leaders to hide their beliefs.

Said Caldwell:

If Rick Warren does not pray in Jesus’ name, some folks are going to be very disappointed. Since he’s evangelical, his own tribe, if you will, will have some angst if he does not do that.