01/17/05 — OPINION -- He's back!

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OPINION -- He's back!

By Gene Price
Published in News on January 17, 2005 1:58 PM

Michael Newdow is the atheist who tried to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. He's back!

Last week he filed suit to stop a Christian minister from offering a prayer at the presidential inauguration. Prayers have been given at inaugurations for more than 200 years.

But Newdow said the prayer would "violate the Constitution" by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs.

Hold on there a minute, Mr. Newdow!

That same Constitution guarantees that there will be no abridgment of the freedom of religion.

Having a minister of his choice pray at the ceremony would seem to be a constitutional right of Mr. Bush.

That doesn't force Brother Newdow to accept anything. Indeed, the Constitution also guarantees Newdow the right to stand on a Washington street corner or on the steps of the Supreme Court building and shout that there is no God and that Mr. Bush and his minister are wasting their time and breath trying to communicate with something that doesn't exist.

But if Newdow delivers that admonition on the steps of the Supreme Court building, he might not want to look over his shoulder.

On the facade of that magnificent structure is a scene depicting Moses holding a stone tablet -- bearing the Ten Commandments. One of those commandments says "Thou shall have no God before me."

That notwithstanding, Newdow most assuredly is within his constitutional rights to be a zealous atheist -- or an agnostic, idol-worshipper or snake-handler.

The Constitution guarantees all of us the freedom to practice the religion of our choice, or to practice no religion at all. It does assure us that the government cannot dictate our religious beliefs.

President Bush is not trying to do that by having a minister of his faith offer a prayer at the inauguration. He's simply exercising his personal freedom of religion.

The founding fathers' purpose was to prevent imposition of a government religion. They did not intend for "freedom of religion" to ban all expressions of faith and worship.