Minnesota Atheists has joined as a plaintiff to a lawsuit by Michael Newdow to halt the prayers and religious invocations scheduled for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on January 20, 2009, as a violation of separation of state and church . PDF versions of the lawsuit and its four appendices are linked below.
The lawsuit is expected to be filed on Monday, December 29, 2008 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by attorney Robert Ritter on behalf of attorney Michael Newdow. Besides Minnesota Atheists, other plaintiff groups in the lawsuit include the American Humanist Association (AHA), the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and Atheist Alliance International (AAI) .
The lawsuit contains names of both groups and individuals as plaintiffs. In addition to the group Minnesota Atheists, August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists and vice president of Atheist Alliance International, is listed as an individual plaintiff. Berkshire is the owner of the ATHEIST car license plate for Minnesota.
Michael Newdow achieved prominence in 2004 when he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that public schools should not lead children in the “Pledge of Allegiance” because it contains the words “under God.” Minnesota Atheists signed on to a friend of the court brief in that case. (The U.S. Supreme Court threw the case out, declaring that Newdow lacked standing because he was not the primary caregiver for his daughter.) Newdow had previously prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. See case details here .
Minnesota Atheists was the only group to testify at the Minnesota State Capitol against legislation mandating the recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance” in Minnesota public schools. (Feb. 13, 2003.) Minnesota Atheists did this because the Pledge contains the phrase “under God.” While the legislation ended up passing, the final bill contained greater protections for the rights of dissenters than the original bill, probably due to Minnesota Atheists’ testimony. Read more here.
Michael Newdow is scheduled to be interviewed live on Minnesota Atheists’ “Atheists Talk” radio program on Sunday, January 4, 2009, 9:00-10:00 a.m. on KTNF AM 950 radio “The Voice of Minnesota.” It can be streamed live at: http://www.am950ktnf.com/listen and will be available later at http://mnatheists.org .
“Minnesota Atheists was pleased to accept a personal invitation from Michael Newdow to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit,” stated August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists. “The swearing in of a president is a secular event. The oath of office is in the U.S. Constitution and it contains no religious references. It is unfortunate that while Barack Obama campaigned on a theme of unity, the very act of becoming president will serve to divide Americans along religious lines.”
Founded in 1991 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization, Minnesota Atheists is the state’s oldest, largest, and most active atheist organization. Our motto is “Positive Atheism in Action.” We are organized for three purposes: to provide a community for atheists; to educate the public about atheism; and to promote separation of state and church. We may be contacted at (612) 588-7031, firstname.lastname@example.org, and http://mnatheists.org.