Atheist activist Dr. Michael Newdow announced on his website that after 6 years of litigation in federal courts, his constitutional challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance in California public schools is “over.” Newdow indicated for “reasons that are best not divulged” that he would not appeal the case to the Supreme Court. That leaves intact a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last year holding that the words “under God” in the Pledge do not establish a religion. Dr. Newdow’s separate lawsuit challenging recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in New Hampshire public schools continues and will be put before the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit public interest law firm in Washington, DC, intervened in the California lawsuit on behalf of Sacramento-area schoolchildren who wanted to continue saying the Pledge with the words “under God”, as well as the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization that first added the words “under God” to the Pledge. After a California federal district court judge held the Pledge unconstitutional, the Becket Fund appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit. The Becket Fund’s argument that the Pledge’s reference to God is not a prayer but a statement of the quintessentially American political philosophy of limited government was adopted by the Ninth Circuit in its March 2010 decision upholding the Pledge. Becket Fund Founder and President Kevin “Seamus” Hasson successfully argued the appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
“This is a much-needed victory for common sense and American ideals,” said Hasson. “‘The Founding Fathers knew that ‘God’ is not a dirty word but a fundamental part of the American philosophy of government.”
“We will continue to defend the Pledge and our American ideals wherever they are challenged, including the Supreme Court” said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund.
Since a 1943 case involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, schoolchildren have had the right for reasons of conscience not to participate in reciting the Pledge. The lawsuits in California and New Hampshire both challenge whether students who do not want to say the Pledge of Allegiance can stop other children who do from saying the Pledge in school.
Newdow made the announcement that the California Pledge challenge was over on his website www.restorethepledge.com.