WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist Wednesday refused to block prayers at the presidential inauguration, as requested by a California atheist.
Rehnquist acted on his own as the justice who oversees federal courts in Washington, without referring the request to the full Supreme Court for a vote.
Michael Newdow of Sacramento had asked Rehnquist to withdraw from considering the request for a preliminary injunction. The chief justice did not comment when issuing the denial.
Following Rehnquist's denial, Newdow submitted his request to senior Justice John Paul Stevens, who also rejected it.
A federal judge and an appeals court last week refused to issue an injunction against the planned prayers, though Newdow argued they were an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.
Newdow is best known for challenging the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance on behalf of his elementary school-age daughter. The Supreme Court ruled last term that Newdow could not bring the challenge because he did not have custody of his daughter.