Below is a line from the District Court Schedule of what could be a historical case on prayer at the inauguration-- live, open to the public, if you get there early this afternoon. Here's the address and some entrance details (don't bring a cell phone with a camera)
NEWDOW et al v. ROBERTS et al
It's fair to say there is a media boycott against reporting of this hearing, as my diary here seems to be one of the top items when this subject is Googled.
But this is anything but a trivial case. And far from being a nuisance suit that will be quickly dismissed, it was serious enough that an amicus brief was filed signed by every Attorney General of the fifty states of the union.
Now, before anyone goes to the court, make sure that the hearing was not cancelled, which is what the Justice Department lawyers are trying to do, since Newdow's password to file an amendment to a document did not work. He personally ran it down to the court and was five minutes late, and they wanted to make this a cause for dismissal.
I wrote to him about it last night, but he is a bit busy right now and didn't get back to me. If I knew that the case was on, as I suspect it is, I would be tempted to try to get a cheap JetBlue flight out of LA just to be there. I listened to his oral argument before the Supreme Court on his suit to eliminate "under God" and it was fascinating.
There was the mutual respect of a group of insiders, or specialists in an arcane subject, debating the fine points of their field. There was even a joke, a supreme court joke that had everyone laughing out loud. But you have to be a constitutional scholar and litigator to fully appreciate that "dicta" is not the same as "having decided." They all thought it was a side splitter.
Newdow probably knows Church-State jurisprudence as much as anyone-- probably more than anyone, since he is not a lawyer who specializes in this issue,rather he became a lawyer to better advance the goals of a secular government. So, given his dedication, sacrificing his medical career to advance his goal to bring atheists out of the shadows, as blacks, women and gays have so been, it is something that drives him.
The argument that the country is not ready, or that this is not the time, is something he cannot hear. He is the closest we have to a Malcom X, Thurgood Marshal or Martin Luther King of the atheist movement---at least at this time. None of these men, anymore than he, were what those of their eras would consider "reasonable." They were all trouble makers who just couldn't accept society as it was. With this accolade of courage goes another one--"the most hated man in the country" in the eyes of fundamentalist of every monotheistic religion.
While many atheists can agree with his goals, yet see the insurmountable political hurdles-- and are willing to wait for clearer skies, Newdow, having given up his medical career and devoted everything to this, just can't do that.
So, he's about to give this his best shot.
There are really two parts to his case. The second one is the grander of the two, to eliminate all prayer from the quadrennial inauguration ceremonies. While I agree with this goal, the vast majority of Americans do not, along with about every politician who needs the votes of this majority to maintain their own careers.
The first count of his suit is much cleaner-- less profound, but quite symbolic. (described in this first diary) It is simply to follow the constitutionally prescribed Presidential oath of office. This could be achieved with minimal disruption, simply by having the Chief Justice recite the actual thirty five word oath as written by the founders, while President Obama repeats them, and at the conclusion he is free to say if he chooses, "So help me God" words previous Chief Justice's have spoken in error.
Ironically, if you go to my earlier diary I make note of a letter from the Chief Justice that would indicate his awareness that without the correction that Newdow is suing for, he would be, at the very least, on questionable constitutional grounds.
I hope we get someone to pop over there and take notes, or even make a recording if allowable, and then give a report of what went on. It's hard to believe that the media is not covering this story, but other than a few blogs....heck...no one is writing about this except me....and those fifty chief legal officers of all of our fifty states---are taking this pretty seriously.
I rarely make this request, but whether you agree with Newdow or not, this being placed on the rec list would at least have a chance of this being considered news by those mass media folks who glance at this site once in a while.
Update: 6:20 PM Pacific Time
After there being no media coverage of tomorrow's case, the AP wrote this story a few minutes ago that was put on the Yahoo News front page...now it will be seen by millions. If this diary making the rec list prodded them, we did our job.
But they got the story wrong on a major point when they wrote:
WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama wants to conclude his inaugural oath with the words "so help me God," but a group of atheists is asking a federal judge to stop him.
Newdow's complaint specifically says that the president is not a defendant, and it is only the Chief Justice who is being enjoined to speak the words written in the constitution. From the legal complaint:
If President-elect Obama (as a black man fully aware of the vile effects that stem from a majority’s disregard of a minority’s rights, and as a Democrat fully aware of the efficacy his Republican predecessor’s "so help me God" oath additions) feels that the verbiage formulated by the Founders is so inadequate that he needs to interlard his oath with a purely religious phrase deemed unnecessary by the first twenty presidents, Plaintiffs have no objection at this time. The President, like all other individuals, has Free Exercise rights, which might permit such an alteration.
Shame on Associated Press for not reading the briefs, or even this diary with more care.