Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

Newdow returns to court to argue new pledge challenge

By Julia Cheever

December 4, 2007

Michael Newdow, the atheist father who challenged the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, will be back before a U.S. appeals court in San Francisco today with a renewed dispute of the phrase.

Newdow, an emergency room doctor and lawyer, will also argue a second case challenging the motto "In God We Trust" on American coins and currency at the hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Newdow claims the references to God violate the constitutional ban on government establishment of religion, while school district and federal officials say the words are merely ceremonial and patriotic.

A three-judge panel is expected to take the two cases under consideration after hearing arguments and issue written rulings at a later date.

Newdow's first challenge to the pledge began in a federal court in Sacramento and created a national firestorm when the 9th Circuit ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional to require public school children to hear the pledge recited with the words "under God."

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by the Sacramento-area Elk Grove Unified School District.

But in 2004, the high court sidestepped the issue and dropped the case, saying that Newdow didn't have standing to sue because a local custody ruling denied him final authority over his daughter's education.

Newdow then filed a new lawsuit on behalf of another family, a mother and child in the Rio Linda Union School District, also in Sacramento County.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ruled in favor of the mother and child in 2005, saying he was bound by the earlier appeals court ruling.

That decision was appealed by the school district and the federal government, which argued in written briefs that the pledge "is a patriotic act, not a religious act" and "has become woven into the fabric of our society."

The dispute is not over whether students should be required to say the pledge, but rather over whether they should be required to hear it daily.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that children should not be forced to recite the pledge.

Newdow argued in papers submitted to the appeals court that creating a situation in which atheist school children have to opt out of hearing the pledge is "deeply injurious" because it stigmatizes them as outsiders.

The phrase "under God" was added to the pledge by Congress during the Cold War era in 1954.

While Newdow won the pledge case at the trial court level, he lost the "In God We Trust" case before a different federal judge in Sacramento, who ruled last year that the motto was definitively found constitutional by the appeals court in a different case in 1970.


Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa