Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District
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Just a year after his procedural defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court, Dr. Newdow was making another attempt to remove the words “under God” from of the Pledge of Allegiance. Becket intervened on behalf of California public school parents whose children sought to continue voluntarily reciting the Pledge in school. As Becket’s founder, Seamus Hasson, explained, “This is about a lot more than just how school kids start their day. It’s about where the next generation thinks its rights come from – the Creator or the State.”
After Dr. Newdow’s victory in federal district court, Becket appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit. In December 2007, in a lively argument before a packed courtroom that included several of Dr. Newdow’s boisterous supporters, Mr. Hasson argued that the phrase “under God” in American history always protects rights, not violates them. Hasson demonstrated that historic appeals to “Nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence, Washington’s Farewell Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are not primarily religious. Instead, such phrases embody our Founding Fathers’ political philosophy. By adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, Congress not only contrasted mutually exclusive conceptions of human rights envisioned by the United States and the Soviet Union, but affirmed that our rights come from an authority higher than the state.
After considering the case for almost two and a half years, in March 2010, the Ninth Circuit reversed itself, affirming the constitutionality of the words “under God.” Remarkably, the same court that in 2002 ruled that saying “under God” was like saying a prayer, adopted Becket’s position that the Pledge is a statement of political philosophy.
Dr. Newdow appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which rejected his attempt on procedural grounds. Since then, Dr. Newdow has made similar attempts in other states to alter the Pledge of Allegiance.