A federal judge refused on Thursday to order the words "so help me God" taken out of President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural oath or to stop ministers from praying at the inauguration ceremony.
US District Judge Reggie Walton turned down a request from a group of atheists and agnostics to force Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts not to add those words to the 35-word inaugural oath outlined in the Constitution.
The group, led by California atheist Michael Newdow, also wanted to prohibit Obama's chosen inaugural ministers, the Revs. Joseph Lowery and Rick Warren, from offering prayers at the inauguration.
Newdow, who lost a Supreme Court battle to get the words "under God" taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance, an unofficial affirmation of fealty to the US flag said at many public occasions, has failed in similar challenges to the use of religious words and prayers at President George W. Bush's inaugurations.