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Michael Newdow vs The Pledge of Allegiance

[This is a repost. Original article and comment lost after the recent server move.]

[Updates below.]

Supreme Court to Consider Pledge's 'Under God' Phrase

The U.S. Supreme Court considers on Wednesday whether the words "under God" must be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance during its recitation in public schools, an important case on church-state separation.

I posted about this briefly last year, but now the case is going to the Supreme Court today.

Last Friday, I watched part of a discussion between Newdow and Aden on the merits of the case. C-SPAN (who cut out halfway through it to air something else, tha bastards) had coverage, as did the Washington Times:

A key court member in the matter of Elk Grove Unified School District vs. Newdow, the Supreme Court case contesting the controversial "under God" clause in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, participated in an American University forum Thursday to discuss the forthcoming dispute.

The discussion featured plaintiff Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif. atheist contesting the pledge's secularity, and Steven H. Aden of the Christian Legal Society representing the government's position. American University Law Professor Stephen Wermiel moderated the hourlong event.


If upheld by the Supreme Court, which will begin hearing the case on March 24, the omission would continue to apply in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, California and perhaps nationally. Justice Antonin Scalia, who publicly criticized the 9th Circuit's ruling, subsequently recused himself from the hearing, leaving the court with just eight justices to decide the case. A potential 4-4 decision in Elk Grove vs. Newdow would then carry the weight of a majority vote, thus continuing the ban.

© 2004 News World Communications, Inc.

Information regarding the case:
  • Jurist links to this summary of the case, which contains links to the PDF briefs for Dr. Newdow, the Solicitor General, and the Elk Grove Unified School District.
  • Also linked is this history of the pledge case on the Restore our Pledge of Allegiance website. Not unbiased, but a useful guide to the actions leading up to today.
  • Howard Bashman has three link-filled posts concerned mostly with opinion pieces and "day of" specials in newspapers.

    Where do I stand on this? I side with Dr. Newdow, especially after the ridiculous displays of faith GOP politicians went through after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the pledge to be unconstitutional.

    A Big Case Over Two Little Words

    When Michael A. Newdow urges the Supreme Court today to ban the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, he will be up against not only the Elk Grove (Calif.) Unified School District, where his daughter attends classes.

    Newdow will also be battling the school district's supporters: the Bush administration, the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress, dozens of members of both the House and the Senate, the governments of all 50 states, the National Education Association, and even a group billed as "Grassfire.net and Hundreds of Thousands of Americans."

    But the California atheist does have one advantage -- consistency.

    An unabashed proponent of extirpating all religious references from public life, Newdow has no problem standing before the court and urging it to edit "under God" out of the pledge, even if that logic, extended, would probably doom "In God We Trust" on currency and even the cry of "God save the United States and this honorable court," with which the Supreme Court commences its work each day.

    His opponents, by contrast, must negotiate a minefield of Supreme Court precedents that have interpreted the constitutional prohibition on the official establishment of religion to mean that government must stay neutral among religious beliefs, avoid actions that have the purpose or effect of endorsing any religious belief, and refrain from coercing individual citizens to express a religious belief.

    © 2004 The Washington Post Company

    Consistency and logic are what should rule the day, not how many people support keeping the pledge as it is, not about removing religion from "public life", and not about being anti-tradition. It's about keeping the government out of the religion business.

    As I said back in my post about Texas passing a law requiring students to recite the pledge:

    The fundamental question all people must face at some point is whether or not they believe in Gawd. Not any specific Gawd, but just whether they believe in one, many, or none. It's the fork in the intellectual road: faith in this or faith in this? To have those words in the Pledge of Allegiance is to have that choice made for us...to establish then and there that there is a Gawd and that Gawd has certain qualities. For example:

    • It is concerned with human life.
    • It protects those who merit protection.
    • It has power that extends beyond human ability.
    It explicitly establishes a theocracy and I don't mean that as hyperbole. If the nation is "under God" then the nation, it's laws, and it's citizens are also "under God" as well, meaning we are subservient to It and lesser than It. Arguments that the insertion is a symbolic gesture miss the point entirely. The government has NO RIGHT to establish these things and certainly NO RIGHT to try and force people to follow them and recite them.
    I'd only change this from that passage: the fundamental question is to have faith or not. The substance of that faith is unimportant at this juncture. Once the establishment of faith is accomplished, you've taken the single biggest step. And when it's the state that is taking that step by making it obvious it assumes there is a Gawd, the state has lost it's neutrality.

    Even worse, you've got arguments saying that the reason this case is important is because the pledge affirms the idea that our rights are derived from Christianity. That stance is abhorrent on a number of grounds:

    1. If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then that entity can just as easily take them away, ending the notion that those are "rights" to even begin with.
    2. If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then the creation of those rights is entirely arbitrary and have no basis other than the whim of the entity. They would be, in other words, floating abstractions and it would be logically perilous to attempt consistency based on such a foundation.
    3. How do we determine what religion is the "correct one"? I can't begin to delve into the problems this question creates.

    Then there is the little problem I have of millions of children pledging Allegiance to a state that violates our rights every day.

    Kick ass today, Michael Newdow. I hope you win.

    UPDATE(3/25/2004 12:20pm)
    Howard Bashman is on a roll, posting numerous links to news articles around the country on this issue here and here. Several smaller posts are scattered inbetween.

    A lengthy excerpt from the Court's proceedings is available from the NYT here.

    UPDATE(6/15/2004 7:45am)
    Yeah, I heard about the court ruling in favor of the government and against Mr. Newdow...and on the rather lame grounds of not having legal standing to bring the case. But he won't take it sitting down.

    Newdow: We will challenge Pledge again.

    UPDATE(6/24/2004 1:29pm)
    Dr. Newdow isn't Giving Up

    UPDATED 9/14/2005 3:11pm
    Michael Newdow is at it again!
    U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton rules school pledge is unconstitutional

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    I dont think they should have the right to take God out of anything even the pledge of alegence cause if they do it will be going against christianity for what they believe in. And what God done to create us and the world if there was no God we would not be here. He got us this far and we need to aseeped that in life liberty and the persuit of happiness keep God in the pledge cause children and adults do believe even if its a different religon between that person and god. People will think if we dont have God in the pledge we can take God out of everything!
    Thanks for your
    cooperation,time and Gratatude
    Genny O'Brien

    Genny, if you want a government based on the concept of religious beliefs, then that's fine. But you cannot have that and have what the First Amendment says.

    What you want is a theocracy - government based on religious principles. Please give my criticism of your stance more thought:

    *If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then that entity can just as easily take them away, ending the notion that those are "rights" to even begin with.

    *If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then the creation of those rights is entirely arbitrary and have no basis other than the whim of the entity. They would be, in other words, floating abstractions and it would be logically perilous to attempt consistency based on such a foundation.

    *How do we determine what religion is the "correct one"? I can't begin to delve into the problems this question creates.

    Remove religion from government and all it's intruments. It's the only reasonable thing to do. If this occurs, it doesn't demean or injure religion in any way. It merely returns it to it's proper place in society: unhindered and unhelped by the state.


    As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S. Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view - it is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments! (Is this a separation issue that has not been fully argued in front of the court?)


    As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door. (This too appears to be a problem, as it would seem that the doors need to be replaced or the court must acknowledge that there was/is good rationale for leaving the commandments on the doors. My argument is that how can the court ignore all these smatterings of religious precepts when the court and every athiest who enters the court is reminded of the commandments when he/she enters the court.


    As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments! (Uh oh, interesting that the court refused to take up the issue of Judge Moore as it would be embarrassing to tell Judge Moore no, and leave the display hanging. Sounds double minded to me!)


    There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington, D.C. (Since the separation doctrine calls for no references to religion by gov. I suppose the taxpayers should foot the bill to have all this stuff removed!)


    James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of Our Constitution" made the following statement "We have staked the whole of all Our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." (Wow, but that was so long ago. The founding fathers must have meant something else in their writings, yeah right!)


    Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ". Ooops! the JC words! Maybe Patrick was misquoted. He certainly wasn't being inspired. The revisionists will probably say someone got the quote wrong, after all they were not very learned men back in the 1700's.

    Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777. (He was a secular preacher, right?)


    Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the colonies. (Fancy that, what percentage is that? 96.3%)


    Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority and instead of interpreting the law would begin making law....an oligarchy....the rule of few over many. (I would argue that activism is alive and well in the courts!)


    The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, said, "Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers." (He was thinking about their character, veracity, etc.)

    How, then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have done for 220 years in this country is now suddenly wrong and unconstitutional?

    Tom Gleeson

    Mr. Gleeson, DID YOU KNOW that your comment doesn't advance your case for your side at all? The very fact that religion has penetrated our state institutions to the point where it's taken for granted supports the strict seperationists' contention. You're way over the line by saying "everything we have done for 220 years" is now unconstitutional. Who's 'we' and have 'you' done that's getting rejected by the courts? Were you part of that Knights of Columbus or American Legion group who got this included in the pledge or something?

    Duh! Go Drizz.
    First when I read this entry I was like: "Hey Drizz aren't you goin a bit too far there? Why not leave those words in?"
    I'm a muslim, I believe in God and the gift of free will. We have to make our own decisions, even God won't make em for us.
    In God we trust, I always thought it was a fine slogan. Saying that as God equals good, our aim is to serve the righteous cause and try to make every of our decisions the best way possible. Before you ask, of course there's no final definition for what is best, it's the intention I'm talkin about.
    So thought you're stance was just nitpicking, trying to force liberalism into every aspect of our lives, even if there's no real need for it.
    But upon reading Tom Gleesons comment ... holy crap, "Americans should pick Christainas as their rulers? Why not let the pope reign then and turn over democracy? I don't think THAT's really what the founding fathers thought of. And even if it really was that way, aren't they just only humans too? They weren't some godly, omnipotent superhumans. We aren't bound to live by their rules forever, they did something good by founding this nation, so our job should be to built up on that foundation and make this a better home.
    Realizing that there are some who don't really understand the First Amendment trying to abuse those words to press their believes on others, it's time we enforce the constitution, even if it's a pity. To me the US will always be a nation under God, the melting pot project.

    'lol' Don't get confused by me, as a German, saying "we", just pretend like I was one of you.

    Public comments about the pledge court case show that few people know that the pledge was written in 1892 by a self-proclaimed socialist in the U.S. nationalist movement, to promote socialism in the most socialistic institution -government schools.

    Few people know that the original salute to the flag was like the Nazi salute and that "Nazi" means "National Socialist German Workers' Party." (Eye-popping photos are only at http://members.ij.net/rex/pledge1.html ) An easy mnemonic device to remember that Nazis were socialists and that "Nazi" means "National Socialist German Workers’ Party" is that the horrid swastika resembles overlapping "S" shapes for "socialism," and that the Nazis often used stylized "S" symbolism. (See http://members.ij.net/rex/swastikanews.html )

    The pledge of allegiance was authored by the self-proclaimed socialist Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was the first cousin of the socialist Edward Bellamy. Edward Bellamy's futuristic novel, "Looking Backward," was published in 1888, and described life in the year 2000. It described a totalitarian society where all private transactions are outlawed, where the government places all men in an "industrial army" and where the monolithic government school system is operated specifically as part of the "industrial army" system. Of course, all of the preceding was portrayed as a dandy utopia just as it was portrayed by so many apologists for the industrial armies of socialist hell-holes worldwide.

    The book spawned a socialist movement in the U.S. known as "Nationalism," with the Nationalist magazine, and "Nationalist Clubs" whose members wanted the federal government to nationalize most of the American economy. Francis Bellamy was a member of this movement and a vice president of its socialist auxiliary group.

    Francis Bellamy had often lectured on the so-called "virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism." In 1891, he was forced to resign from his church because of his socialist activities and sermons. He then joined the staff of the magazine "Youth's Companion" and wrote the pledge of allegiance, first published therein.

    In the original articles about the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy promotes government schools and snipes at the many better alternatives, and urges that education should come only from government. It is consistent with the government school monopoly in the book "Looking Backward" and the "industrial army" promoted by the Bellamys.

    Bellamy lived during the time when schools were becoming socialized heavily in the United States. When the U.S. Constitution was written, children received private educations (schools are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution).

    Edward Bellamy's book was translated into 20 foreign languages. It was popular among the elite in pre-revolutionary Russia, and was even read by Lenin's wife. John Dewey and the historian Charles Beard intended to praise the book by stating that it was matched in influence only by Das Kapital.

    Francis Bellamy lived from 1855 to1931. Edward Bellamy lived from 1850-1898. Edward Bellamy was spared witnessing the horrors that his socialism caused to the rest of humanity. Francis Bellamy lived in the U.S. during the first 14 years of mass atrocities under the industrial army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Francis Bellamy might not have known about the horrors of his socialist ideas in the U.S.S.R. at that time. Francis Bellamy lived long enough to see a similar salute and philosophy espoused by the industrial army of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. If Edward Bellamy's fictional character had awakened in the year 2000 he would have learned that since 1887 Bellamy's philosophy had set and was holding all the worst records for shortages, poverty, misery, starvation, atrocities and mass slaughter.

    According to R. J. Rummel's article in the Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999) the worst trio of socialist atrocities (see http://members.ij.net/rex/socialists.jpg) occurred under the industrial armies of: (1) the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 62 million deaths, 1917-'87; (2) People's Republic of China, 35 million, 1949-'87; (3) Germany under the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, 21 million, 1933-'45.

    After the National Socialist German Workers' Party tried to impose socialism on the world, many U.S. citizens were disturbed by the Pledge's similar salute and that it was written by a socialist in "Nationalist" groups in the U.S. Although the salute changed, the pledge remained the same.

    There is something more disturbing than all of the above: Most children are never told any of the preceding history in government schools, even though
    there is a totalitarian-style robotic recital of the pledge as a collective by children in government schools en masse on cue from the government every single day.

    It is a wonder why anyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance. It is probably because of rampant ignorance about the Pledge's origin and history.

    No one would trust the government to tell you the truth if it ran the newspapers. Why would anyone expect the government to tell children the truth in government schools? As Libertarians say: The separation of school and state is as important as the separation of church and state. And that is the real solution to the pledge debate and all other school issues: remove government from education.


    to learn more visit http://members.ij.net/rex/pledge1.html

    i think the pledge should be kept in school. Yes we have a separation of church & state but it is part of our patriotism and it's true, we are one nation under god. And thats the way we should keep it.

    D.D, I flatly reject that there is ANY use (moral or practical) in giving homage to a Christian diety through school, government, printed money, etc.

    Pleas read this whole article. I believe that Under God should stay in the Pledge. If God wasn't real than America wouldn't even exist. The reason that the Pilgrims came to America is so they could have religous freedom. God showed them the place to go to. So if God doesn't exist we wouldn't be having these problems because we wouldn't even be here. Yes some other people could come over and take it over but it wouldn't be the English. So America was started by Christians not atheists. If we take Under God out of our pledge and we let homosexuals get married then we are in trouble. I have a question for you. Do you feel empty inside. Answer that honestly. God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you so much that He died on a cross to forgive your sins. He wants you to be in heaven with Him forever. That is a lot more hope than what you believe after you die, do you want to just be eaten by worms or live with God in Heaven after you die. I love you and I feel the need to write this to you. You are probably thinking that what I'm saying is a bunch of pooh and how can I love a stranger. If I didn't love you I probably would even take the time to write this to you. If you truly want to feel loved and feel that your life has a real purpose than ask Jesus. It is so easy all you have to do is say Jesus I want you in my life. Come in and take all the sadness away. I need you in my life. I want a personal relationship with you. thats it! If you feel that there is no way that God can forgive you of your sins it is not true. He will forget your sins and just love you. Look it up for yourself the answers are in the Bible! Read it and then choose.

    Kristie, prove gawd exists. You have to do that before "[i]f God wasn't real than America wouldn't even exist" becomes a true statement. Religious freedom is one of the reasons so many people left Europe to live here. Economic and social persecutions were also reasons. The absence of the religious sects would have changed the face of those early years considerably...but their absence would not have condemned this nation from being founded. Outside of historical questions, it doesn't matter who settled here from England. This is in no small part because they were all dead before the Declaration of Independence! If atheists required children to recite a pledge that explicitly stated, "one nation, under no god" I'd be opposed to it just as strongly as I am to the current version.

    If you really want to talk about homosexual marriage, I invite you. However, it's a red herring and irrelevant to this discussion.

    I don't feel empty inside because I don't need a gawd or a religious system to fill me. My fulfillment comes from achievement, friendship, and knowledge. I don't need faith-based promises of an unidentifiable future to propel me forward and I certainly don't need threats of eternal suffering to scare me into doing the right thing.

    Wasn't it Jesus who died on the cross? Gawd didn't die for anyone; otherwise you would have nothing in which to believe.

    i think that god is amazing, aand this site is ridiculous

    ooo yeaaa

    Drizz....ur stupid...God is looking down on you and saying "wow, this kid has some freakin guts"

    Shame on you

    HUR HUR.

    What cauldron of retardation were you "created" from?

    dude what are you thinking god is the best thing for this country you need to know that if we keep taking god out of the world then we will hav nothing.

    Hey Mr. Monroe, I'll take your alleged "nothing" over bowing down to the whim of a fussy authoritarian third party that banishes you to eternal suffering for deviating from it's commands...the most complete instruction set of which was cobbled together over dozens of years by self-acknowledged imperfect humans centuries ago and further mangled by translation, theology, and temple idolatry.

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