WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court heard arguments today from Michael Newdow, a California atheist who sued Elk Grove Unified School District, saying daily recitations of the pledge at his daughter’s school is unconstitutional and not only interferes with his right to teach her his beliefs but of many people who don’t believe in God.
Some justices said it should be clarified whether the phrase “under God” in the pledge intended to unite the country or express religion.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that Congress unanimously added the words "under God" in the pledge in 1954.
"That doesn't sound divisive," he said.
``You may disagree that it's 'under God.' You may disagree that it's `liberty and justice for all,''' Rehnquist said, referring to another part of the pledge. ``That doesn't make it a prayer.''
Terence Cassidy, attorney for a suburban Sacramento school district where Newdow's 9-year-old daughter attends classes, noted to justices that the girl's mother opposed the lawsuit. "The ultimate decision-making authority is with the mother," he said.
The mother, Sandra Banning, who is a born-again Christian and supporter of the pledge, said: "I object to his inclusion of our daughter" in the case, she said earlier Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" show. She said she worries that her daughter will be "the child who is remembered as the little girl who changed the Pledge of Allegiance."
A new Associated Press poll shows that Americans, almost 90%, are supportive of the pledge with the reference to God despite constitutional question about whether or not it violates the separation of church and state.