December 04, 2007
For Immediate Release
(Washington, D.C.) The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments this morning in a pair of cases that challenge the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency. Michael Newdow, a leading member of the American Humanist Association, presented oral arguments in both cases to a three-judge panel in San Francisco. He argued that school children should not be required to recite the Pledge and that the religious motto on U.S. money violates the separation of church and state.
Newdow also argued that his Pledge challenge is not about divisiveness but rather equality in the eyes of the law. “This is not a case of people who believe in God vs. people who don’t believe in God,” Newdow told the judges. “It’s a case about treating people equally.”
“Newdow hits the nail on the head,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “What unites us should be a civic bond, not a religious belief. The Court should do the right thing and return the Pledge of Allegiance to its original and intended form, that few people realize was without the ‘under God’ wording. Only then will we have a truly inclusive Pledge for Americans from all walks of life and backgrounds.”
“We’re very pleased with the arguments he made,” Speckhardt continued. “He did a great job.”
The pledge case was originally brought by Newdow on behalf of his daughter against the Elk Grove Unified School District in 2000. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court originally ruled in his favor in 2002; however, the Bush administration appealed, arguing that the pledge is a patriotic exercise, not government-backed religion. The U.S. Supreme Court then overturned the ruling in 2004 on the technical issue of standing. Newdow sued a second time.
“‘One nation under God’ is clearly an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” said Bob Ritter, legal coordinator for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association. “The Pledge coerces students into giving false statements of sectarian belief in public school. Even if students aren’t required to recite the Pledge, they’re placed in an intimidating position of either refusing to recite it in front of classmates and teachers or being forced to say something they don’t believe.”
Ritter added, “Moreover, to say that the Pledge avoids controversy because it doesn’t identify a god of a particular religious sect is erroneous. As previous courts have ruled, the phrase ‘under God’ is still an endorsement of monotheism, which excludes nearly 30 million Americans who don’t identify with a religion, as well as the many others, such as Buddhists and Hindus, who don’t subscribe to monotheism.”
The court appeared divided after an hour of arguments, with one judge apparently siding with either side of the argument and another that appeared conflicted.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.