A federal judge has turned down an effort by some atheists and agnostics to bar President-elect Barack Obama from saying “so help me God” as he finishes taking the oath of office on Inauguration Day.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton refused to issue such an order.

The Constitution states that a president shall take this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

By tradition, many presidents have added “so help me God” at the end. (Though, as USA TODAY’s Cathy Lynn Grossman has reported, there appears to be no evidence to support the commonly held belief that the tradition goes all the way back to the first president, George Washington)

Obama has said he plans to use the phrase next Tuesday.

By the way, today Cathy writes about the controversy over Bishop Gene Robinson’s use of the phrase “God of their own understanding.” Robinson is among the members of the clergy who will be taking part in inaugural-related events.

Source: USA Today