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Federal judge to rule on inaugural prayer

[JURIST] US District Judge John Bates has heard arguments in a case seeking to prevent the recitation of a prayer [JURIST report] during President Bush' inauguration [official website] next week. Plaintiff Michael Newdow [JURIST Newsmaker], who unsuccessfully tried to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, argued that allowing a Christian prayer at the ceremony forces him to accept unwanted religious beliefs in violation of the Constitution. Newdow, an atheist, filed and lost similar case when Bush was first inaugurated, because he did not suffer "a sufficiently concrete and specific injury." Newdow argues that this second case is different because he has a ticket to attend the inauguration, rather than just watching the ceremony on television. Lawyers for President Bush and the inaugural committee told Judge Bates that the decision to have a Christian minister give an invocation is Bush's personal choice, one which the court has no power to prevent. Bates is expected to issue his ruling Friday. Newdow has posted the complaint [PDF] in the current case, as well as other case documents. AP has more.

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