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Atheists Sue Over Inaugural Prayer

Michael A. Newdow, who led the failed charge to get the words "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, is now heading an effort to keep religion out of President-elect Barack Obama's swearing in.

Newdow's group, consisting of 18 individuals and 10 smaller groups, has sued "Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., several officials in charge of inaugural festivities, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and megachurch pastor Rick Warren" in U.S. District Court, the Washington Post reports.

Lowery has been asked to deliver the benediction at the ceremony, while Warren is the transition team's (controversial) choice to deliver the invocation; Roberts is set to administer the oath of office. The oath traditionally includes the phrase "so help me God," which the athiest group wants stricken.

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Newdow brought similar suits four and eight years ago to keep references to God and prayer out of President Bush's inaugurals. They were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit argues that the prayers and religious references "are completely exclusionary, showing absolute disrespect to Plaintiffs and others of similar religious views, who explicitly reject the purely religious claims that will be endorsed, i.e., (a) there exists a God, and (b) the United States government should pay homage to that God."

Scott Walter, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, dismissed the suit as a "publicity stunt."

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