So help me God
President’s taking the Oath of Office can continue to add, “So help me God.”
Michael Newdow had objected to President Obama’s decision to include the phrase “So help me God” in the presidential oath of office administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday ruled that, with the oath taken more than a year ago, the court had no legal standing to consider its constitutionality.
“Whether the 2009 ceremony’s incorporation of the religious oath and prayers was constitutional may be an important question to plaintiffs, but it is not a live controversy that can avail itself of the judicial powers of the federal courts,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote in the opinion. “It is therefore moot.”
Newdow, a lawyer who has made it his mission to have overtly religious references pulled from government ceremonies and institutions based on the Constitutional promise of separation of church and state, also objected to Obama’s decision to have two ministers offer prayers at the ceremony. Newdow has lost similar challenges to the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations.
This time, Newdow also tried to block future presidents from incorporating prayer in inauguration ceremonies, specifically in 2013 and 2017. But the court ruled against him.
“By naming as defendants all persons the future President could possibly invite to administer an oath, lead a prayer, or help in the planning of these events, plaintiffs are essentially seeking a declaration of their rights accompanied by an injunction against the world,” the opinion states. “There is another name for that generally applicable relief: legislation.”
Plus, the court said, it’s really up to a President or President-elect to decide what will, or won’t be included. Clergymen or even a Chief Justice participating in the ceremony, the opinion stated, are “powerless” to make that call.
As it happens, “So help me God” is very popular with mothers, as in, “So help me God, if you don’t clean your room there will be Hell to pay.” Good to know that the phrase remains as American as Mom and Apple Pie.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone.