David Waters of WashingtonPost.com's On Faith blog takes a mostly-fair look at Michael Newdow's inauguration lawsuit by seeing what effect the messengers have on the substance of the case.
. . . I suspect the lawsuit would have generated less condescension if it had been filed by the Freedom Forum or the National Council of Churches, rather than two dozen atheist and humanist individuals and groups led by the infamous Newdow, best known for his lawsuits challenging the interlarding of the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "under God."
I think this is an important point (in a post with more not-so-important points). Like it or not, knowing the suit is being filed mainly by atheists is enough to turn most of the culture off and send many into screaming rages. This is particularly makes groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State valuable.
This does not mean, though, that atheists should sit back because no one likes them. For raw legal maneuverings, there can be arguments about when and when not to get involved. But this is as much consciousness-raising as it is law, so atheists should indeed be at the forefront, and then be ready for the backlash--especially if they win!

Waters takes the issue more seriously than most, to his credit, concluding his post with:

When Chief Justice Roberts asks President-elect Obama to put his right hand on a Bible and swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution "so help me God," is the United States of America declaring that God exists? Does the inclusion of clergy prayers and oaths to God in the inauguration of the president mean that the new government officially endorses theism and rejects atheism?

If not, do the words "so help me God" mean anything at all?

The "if not" is a true dilemma, I think, for believers fighting to keep their deity in government ceremony. Luckily, it's not my dilemma.
[Originally appears at Bloc Raisonneur]

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Tags: americans, atheism, atheists, church-state, david, faith, inauguration, john, michael, newdow, More…on, public, relations, roberts, separation, united, waters

Comment by Frink on January 7, 2009 at 3:23pm
Nice finish. I'm a bit torn on the issue. On one hand, I really don't give a damn whether they tack on "so help me God" or not. The words are absolutely meaningless to me.

On the other, it's things like this that give ignorant historical revisionists ammunition when attempting to illustrate how the country was founded on Christian principles, even though most of these references to god (the pledge, currency) were added in more recent times. What's even more frustrating is that these groups will take offense if they're removed, adding an unfortunate and unnecessary layer of complexity to the issue, then use it to show how their tax-exempt organizations are somehow being persecuted.

While I admire the efforts of Mr. Newdow, I don't think he's the most convincing or charismatic representative we could have in the national media. Good post.
Comment by Paul Fidalgo on January 7, 2009 at 4:12pm
You make a good point. A very common argument for religionists is "everybody's been into it for a long time," as if that was a form of evidence of truth.
Comment by Frink on January 7, 2009 at 4:23pm
Right? We also subjugated women for a long time, so we might as well keep doing it. That's what I'm taking away from it. Ugh, have the same group of people been the roadblock to progress at every step of the way? It sure seems so.

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