FOX47 NEWS - Inauguration Prayer Controversy

Jeff Angileri
Jan 4, 2009, 6:37 PM

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says it's suing on behalf of millions of atheists, agnostics, and free-thinkers. And they say, history and the Constitution are on their side.

President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration is stirring up controversy. A Madison-based organization has filed a lawsuit, demanding that any religious aspects be banned at the swearing-in ceremony.

It's a debate bridging our nation's capital and an organization not far from Wisconsin's capitol. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is one of 29 plaintiffs trying to get God out of the equation on January 20th.

Less than one third of presidential inaugurations have had clergy-led prayer -- 18 out of 57, said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.

The group wants no prayers, no priests in attendance at Barack Obama's inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony is a secular event, they say. Barker believes even the words so help me God should be removed from the oath of office.

All of us Americans love this time, he said. We celebrate our new president. Millions of us do not believe in God. Millions of us are not Christians.

The lawsuit names Chief Justice John Roberts, who will administer the oath, inauguration chairperson Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and the Reverend Rick Warren, who'll lead the prayer. Religious leaders say, in a spiritual sense, the lawsuit is irrelevant.

God is there whether there's an official prayer or not, said Jerry Folk, interim pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Horeb. People will be praying for the president, for the inauguration whether there's an official prayer or not.

Church goers say, the choice should be left to Barack Obama.

Being that he's a Christian person, I think it would be appropriate for him to want to have a prayer, said Mindy Holt of Mt. Horeb. If we had a Jewish, or Muslim, or other president, they may have a different ceremony they would want.

Others are grateful the choice exists at all.

Said Geoff Holt of Mt. Horeb, I'm glad we have laws in our country that keep us from imposing a faith on other people, but I'm also glad we have the liberty to profess what we believe.

Right now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is seeking an injunction to stop the prayer from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If that doesn't happen, they want a written statement from the court condemning what they consider a violation of church and state.

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