“Out of sight, out of mind” goes the saying.
So many may think that because the 2009 presidential inauguration is history, a lawsuit brought by Michael Newdow, 30 other individuals, and 11 organizations to prevent the infusion of religion into the ceremony is over. Not so.
Newdow and I are now working on a brief – due February 23rd – to explain to Judge Walton why he shouldn’t dismiss the suit. There are so many reasons, including (1) the plaintiffs were in fact harmed and seek a declaration from the court that their Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, and Religious Freedom Restoration Act rights were violated and (2) the unconstitutional practices (the Chief Justice adding “so help me God” to the presidential oath and the sectarian prayers in the invocation and benediction) are likely to repeated in 2013, 2017, and so forth if they aren’t enjoined by the court.
While there are a number of hurdles in this case, the inability of the judge and most Americans to recognize the “harm” caused by the religious practices at the presidential inaugural ceremony is most troubling.
In truth, this is a common human shortcoming. When things are going our way, we often fail to recognize that others may be suffering. (I’m trying to be nice by not calling it tyranny of the majority.)
The following is a description by Professor Christopher C. Lund of the harm caused by legislative prayers:
A government whose legislative prayers are acceptable to one religious group but not another makes the latter group feel unwelcome, and it ends up exerting pressure on the disfavored group to change their religious ways.
See Lund, Legislative Prayer and the Secret Costs of Religious Endorsements, page 25. This description applies equally to executive prayers (like the religious activities complained of in Newdow v. Roberts) and public school prayer cases. I encourage all Rant & Reason readers to read Professor Lund’s 56 page article for an excellent discussion of the issues.
Rather than rant on, I invite readers to express in your own words whether (and how) you felt harmed by the infusion of religion into the 2009 presidential inauguration ceremony, or not.