Newdow Brings New Challenge to Pledge of Allegiance

The California atheist whose effort to strip the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance was rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago has joined two parents to pursue the same legal battle.

Michael Newdow is now representing an anonymous New Hampshire couple who filed a suit last week in the U.S. District Court against a Hanover school district for leading their children in reciting the Pledge with phrase "under God."

The couple, only identified as "Jan and Pat Doe," contend in their lawsuit that the two-word phrase, which they describe as "sectarian religious dogma," should be declared unconstitutional.

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"By placing the religious words 'under God' into the Pledge, Congress not only interfered with the patriotism and national unity the Pledge was meant to engender, but it actually fostered divisiveness . . . in a manner expressly forbidden by the Constitution," the suit states.

A 2002 state law requires schools to include recitation of the pledge of allegiance in every school day but adds that student participation is voluntary.

But the two plaintiffs still believe that by including the phrase into the pledge, the district is "endorsing the religious notion that God exists" and thereby creates a "societal environment where prejudice against atheists … is perpetuated," according to the suit.

The Hanover case represents only one of a string of attempts by Newdow to challenge the pledge.

The California attorney's case to ban the pledge 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.

Justice Clarence Thomas and former justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor argued in their opinions that merely invoking God does not amount to an endorsement of any religion.

Newdow later filed an identical suit, on behalf of parents with children in three Sacramento-area school districts. The case is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The outspoken atheist has also attacked the nation's motto ''In God We Trust'' printed on U.S. currency but a federal judge rejected the case last year.

The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a Congressional resolution that added the words.

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