After more than a decade of litigation, atheist activist Michael Newdow says his court battle over the Pledge of Allegiance’s “under God” statement is now officially “over.”
“For reasons that are best not divulged, we have not been able to provide the required materials to the Supreme Court,” Newdow reported on his website last weekend. “Accordingly, this case is now over.”
Since March 2000, Newdow has challenged the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance, arguing that its recitation in public schools is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause because of the inclusion of the phrase “under God.”
Newdow’s first effort, however, was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2004 on procedural grounds that he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter at the time. For his second attempt, Newdow filed on behalf of parents in the Sacramento area.
While the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled in Newdow’s favor in 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed the decision, prompting Newdow to eventually take his case to the Supreme Court.
Newdow’s latest announcement comes just days after the Supreme Court had declined to hear another challenge made by the doctor/lawyer – one against the national motto, “In God We Trust.”
“The Supreme Court denied certiorari on March 7, 2011. This case, therefore, is now over,” Newdow had reported.
With his latest announcement, Newdow only has one challenge left on the table – one to “the monotheistic practices of the Presidential Inaugural.” Since 2001, Newdow has been fighting against the phrase “so help me God” that is uttered by the Supreme Court Chief Justice in administering the presidential oath of office. He also argues against the invitation of chaplains to the inaugural ceremony “to give prayers to Jesus and to God.”
“We now await the decision of the Supreme Court as to whether or not the Court will hear the case,” Newdow stated in his latest update on the case.
“There are about 8,000 petitions made each year, and the Court hears about 80 of these. Thus, just on the basis of the numbers, there is something like a 99% chance that the cert petition will be denied,” he added.
Aside from his three cases, Newdow has vowed to help another atheist with a lawsuit against an Illinois law that mandates a moment of silence in public schools. He is founder of an organization called FACTS (First Atheist Church of True Science), which advocates strong separation of church and state in public institutions.