Religion in Society

Atheists Say that Public Prayer Literally Makes Them Sick

| by Pacific Justice Institute

Washington, D.C. – Briefing is nearing a close in a high-profile case challenging prayer at Presidential inaugurations, currently before the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit, filed by hundreds of atheists and atheist groups, led by frequent litigant Michael Newdow, was thrown out by the lower federal court. The two ministers who offered prayers at President Obama's inauguration, Dr. Rick Warren and Dr. Joseph Lowery, are named defendants in the lawsuit and are being represented by Pacific Justice Institute.

In its Opposition Brief filed last week, Pacific Justice Institute countered the legal arguments of atheists who said public prayer traumatized them to the point of illness. Among the more dire claims, one plaintiff declared, "[W]hen Chief Justice Roberts asked the President to say, 'So help me God,' I felt threatened and sick to my stomach." Another plaintiff stated in court documents, "As I watched this inauguration, I cringed with disgust as I witnessed this special secular event again being poisoned with sectarian religious nonsense."

The plaintiffs in this case include numerous individuals, and groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, The American Humanist Association, Atheists United, Atheists for Human Rights, and Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers.

PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider, who authored the opposition brief submitted last week on behalf of Drs. Warren and Lowery, commented, "Prayers designed to solemnize public events have a long and venerable history in our nation.

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The Constitution simply does not demand that our public institutions be amoral or atheistic."

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, stated, "The First Amendment cannot be divorced from common sense. While atheists, humanists and freethinkers are a tiny minority in America, they are free to express and practice their lack of faith as they please. That does not mean, however, that the vast majority of God-fearing citizens and public officials must be silenced in order to appease them."