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Madison atheist group goes to court to take prayers out of Obama inauguration

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Madison's Freedom from Religion Foundation wants prayers left out of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration.

The foundation, its two co-presidents and several members were among 29 plaintiffs filing suit Monday in Federal Court in Washington.

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Among other things, they want the court to stop pastors Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery from delivering an invocation and benediction at Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. And they want Chief Justice John Roberts to leave out the phrase "so help me God" when he gives Obama his oath of office.

This is attorney Michael Newdow's third lawsuit over the issue. The first two failed, and Freedom from Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor is not holding her breath about this one, either.

But she still believes a judge could make prayers at future ceremonies unconstitutional.

She says it's important to keep the official inauguration secular.

Newdow says 39 of the last 57 public inaugural ceremonies did not have prayers led by clergy.

He also said the phrase "so help me God" was only used on and off until 1933, and nobody ever authorized it to be an official part of any oath.

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