Atheist loses court challenge against use of 'God' on pledge, on money

9th Circuit rejects lawsuit but Sacramento lawyer says 'case isn't over'

An atheist who lost a challenge to the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools yesterday said the case isn't over and has promised further appeals.

On Thursday, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco by a 2-1 vote rejected a lawsuit filed by Michael Newdow, an atheist father, emergency room doctor and lawyer from Sacramento.

Newdow, who represented a mother with a kindergarten-age child in the Rio Linda Union School District, claimed that having teachers lead children in reciting the pledge with the reference to God was an unconstitutional government establishment of religion.

But the appeals court majority turned down that claim, saying that the pledge is patriotic, not religious.

Newdow said he plans to appeal to an expanded 11-judge panel of the appeals court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Newdow said, "I'm disappointed. I believe our government is supposed to treat all religious views with equal respect and I don't think it's doing that."

The case was the second time Newdow's challenge to the wording came before the appeals court.

In an earlier decision in 2002, the appeals court ruled by a 2-1 vote that requiring children to hear the pledge with the reference to God was unconstitutional.

That decision created a firestorm of controversy and eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed it on a technical ground. Newdow then re-filed the lawsuit on behalf of the unidentified atheist mother.

In the majority ruling on Thursday, Judge Carlos Bea said Congress had a patriotic and not a religious purpose when it revised the pledge in 1954 to refer to "one nation under God."

Bea wrote, "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our republic was founded."

Judge Stephen Reinhardt argued in a lengthy dissent that the amended wording had "an undeniably religious purpose" and charged that the majority ruling "defies and distorts" precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also on Thursday, the same panel by a unanimous vote rejected a second lawsuit in which Newdow challenged the use of the words "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency.

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Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2010 at 7:25 am

If this woman is an atheist she should just tell her child not to recite that part of the pledge of allegiance. Problem solved. At times I think some people are more interested in causing trouble than anything else.

Look at the problems that many of the california school systems are having. Layoffs are in the works in many school districts, even in cases where a parcel tax was passed. Why can't this woman take the same energy and put it into finding creative ways to deal with the school cutbacks? Why not work as a volunteer in the school system in one way or another? If this person has a day job that doesn't allow for flexible time off during the day or afternoon, then why not offer to help with things that can be done at home on the computer? (contacting other parents, coordinating programs, etc.)

Like this comment
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

"An atheist who lost a challenge to the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools"

This woman is wrong and should not be allowed further appeals and waste of time and money for both schools and courts.

It is not the public school's decision for the Pledge of Allegiance to have the words "under God" - if the woman wants to challenge that, it should be at a federal level for everything: being sworn in when you testify in court, the president himself recited that during the inauguration, etc. Stop the nonsense!

I have a friend who is an atheist, and I myself do not go to church, but our kids still recite the Pledge of Allegiance and it does not hurt anything or anyone.

The woman could easily tell her kid that God does not exist or whatever her beliefs are, but what impose her beliefs on the rest of a school, district or nation?

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne
a resident of Dublin
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

Since president Bush I've just recited it "one nation under guard".

We spend so much on pretending to defend ourselves it just makes more sense.

Before Bush I would just recite "one nation under make believe".

Factually both are more accurate than trying to be under something only perceivable within the mind. I have yet to meet a follower who doesn't fear the perception they hold of their overlord.

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Here's the court's decision: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Mar 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

SteveP is a registered user.

Thank God. The court should be looking to recover their costs in defending against this frivilous case.
Time to grow up and address issue tat really matter, like the deficit, jobs, national defense, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Your nation was founded by Christians, populated by Christians and is still overwhelmingly Christian. the very basis of your Govt is that the majority rule but every one can have a say. If the majority are Christian as your founders were and the majority rule is it not anti democratic to allow a person who represents far less the one percent of the voting public dictate to the majority what will be done in regards to this and many other issues the majority are quite happy with?

For us outside your country it resembles the soviet union where the Communist party and your activist judges decide the country will do what it wants and to hell with democracy.

Maybe you guys need a mechanism via a referendum that allows your President to over ride court decisions of this nature placing the governance of the country back in the peoples hands not 3 or more judges.

We really wish you would get your act together in this regard because we inevitably end up with the same laws because everyone follows your lead, for what ever reason our politicians pick it up and run with it.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

look her Anon, you seem to know things...what exactly a luncheon law? students at a local hs wrote essays in support of luncheon laws? what the heck is that all about?

pleese esplain...

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


Well you're right in some ways when you write "to hell with democracy". The US is not a pure democracy and we've never pretended to be. We're a republic with representational democracy. I'd never support a national referendum law. It is so wholly contrary to what the Founders were trying to accomplish. Power is split between three branches of government that are set at odds with each other. Each branch has mechanisms by which to over ride the other.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Anon: I mean it, what the hell is a luncheon law?

and, who pays for the food?

Like this comment
Posted by lisa
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Whenever someone sues and loses they should have to pay for the cost of the entire trial.
This would stop alot of this nonsense.

Like this comment
Posted by ??
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 9:11 pm

What the heck is Cholo talking about here with his/her "luncheon law" question that is directed at Anon, multiple times?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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