Supreme Court Denies Atheist’s Plea to Reopen Pledge Case

Justices unanimously deny Michael Newdow’s request to appeal the June decision to keep the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance
( [email protected] ) Aug 23, 2004 09:06 PM EDT

On Monday, August 23, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an atheist’s request to revisit the issue of banning the recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because of the phrase “under God”.

The justices unanimously denied atheist Michael Newdow’s appeal without comment.

Newdow’s case initially began several years ago when he sued the Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento Country, California, on behalf of his daughter. Newdow said the pledge, while voluntarily recited, becomes unconstitutional when students are forced to hear it. Newdow also challenged teacher-led recitations, saying it carried the stamp of government approval.

In 2002, a lower federal court ruled in favor of Newdow, sparking a firestorm of criticism across the states. The decision was appealed and was ultimately carried to the U.S. Supreme Court by June 2004.

During the June decision, the justices overturned the lower court’s controversial ruling on a technicality: Newdow cannot represent his daughter since she is under the custody of her mother. Both the mother and the child said they favor the pledge.

In his July request to rehear his case, Newdow said the custody status of his daughter should not prevent him from pursuing a challenge.

Although the justices made no specific comment, legal observers noted that three of the justices said they believe the phrase “Under God” in constitutional, and that the court need not rely on a technicality to decide the case, during the June decision.

The case is Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow.