Challenge to inauguration prayers rejected

Jan. 14, 2005 at 3:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A judge in Washington Friday refused to issue a preliminary injunction sought by a California atheist against prayers at the presidential inauguration.

Michael Newdow of Sacramento earlier had tried to challenge the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance as a violation of the separation between church and state. Though he won in the lower court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last term Newdow did not have "standing," or the right, to bring the challenge on behalf of his elementary school daughter because he did not have custody of her.

In ruling against Newdow Friday, Judge John Bates said Newdow has not shown he would ultimately win his case on the merits -- the threshold for a preliminary injunction against the prayers. But he asked for further filings from both sides before dismissing the suit completely.

Meanwhile the inauguration of President Bush is only a week away.

There was no immediate word on whether Newdow would appeal.

Two Protestant ministers are scheduled to deliver an invocation and benediction.

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