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'So Help Me God': Atheists Want Phrase Yanked From Presidential Oath of Office

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 30, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Constitution of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.

JAMES CARTER, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help you God.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.

GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So help me God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: So help me God. It's happening again. America's most infamous atheists and others are suing to get that phrase yanked from the presidential oath of office before President-elect Barack Obama can utter them in three weeks from now. They also want to get the invocation prayer from Pastor Rick Warren yanked as well.

Video: Watch Kimberly Guilfoyle's interview

Well, this isn't the first time non-believer Michael Newdow has tried to do this kind of thing. He sued to remove religion, if you remember, from both of President Bush's Inaugurations. He lost both times.

Joining me now is the co-president of one of the organizations filing suit along with him, Dan Barker, with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Peter Sprig, vice president of policy at the Family Research Council. Hello to you, gentlemen.

This is a very interesting discussion. Now, Peter, go ahead and state your position.

PETER SPRIG, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, it's Barack Obama's choice to invite these two gentlemen to give the invocation and benediction at his Inauguration. If we ever elect an atheist to be president in the United States, then that person would be free to omit any religious references from his or her inaugural ceremonies.

But this is fundamentally Barack Obama's choice. He is a professing Christian, and it's ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes an establishment of religion simply to have someone pray at his Inauguration.

GUILFOYLE: And Dan, you say that if you allow an inaugural prayer, the government is, quote, "picking a winner between believers and those who don't believe."

DAN BARKER, CO-PRESIDENT, FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION: That's right, Kimberly. The presidential Inauguration is not a religious event. It is a secular event. Millions of good non-Christian Americans serve in the government and we don't believe in a god. We serve in the military. We sit on juries. We teach in the schools.

This celebration is a secular celebration for all of us. And we're not challenging Obama's right to free speech. We're challenging Inaugural Committee's right to invite religious Christian ministers in, by the way, which is a new practice. It was not done early in our history.

And we're also challenging Chief Justice Roberts for overstepping his authority in inserting the phrase, "So help me God" into the presidential oath which is in the Constitution. That is un-American. It is unfair. It marginalizes. It makes those of us good Americans who don't believe in God second-class citizens. It's unfair.

GUILFOYLE: Peter, you're saying that they're misconstruing the First Amendment?

SPRIG: Well, exactly. I mean, the First Amendment prohibits an establishment of religion and it was clearly understood at the time that was adopted that what that meant was the naming of an official national church. Having a simple prayer at an inaugural ceremony doesn't come anywhere close to that.

But ironically, if a lawsuit like this were to succeed, we would be in effect establishing atheism as the national religion by barring any mention of God or any allusion to religion in any public ceremony.

GUILFOYLE: Right. Well, gentlemen, this is an interesting debate and one that I'm sure we will have many more times and we'll let the courts decide. Thank you so much.

BARKER: Thank you, Kimberly.

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