Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 5 June July 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF, Newdow resolute about pledge fight

FFRF and attorney Michael Newdow will continue to challenge the unconstitutional religious Pledge of Allegiance despite the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 13 to hear an appeal that upheld the “one nation under God” pledge in a New Hampshire case. Six of the court’s nine justices are Catholic.

“It’s not surprising,” said Newdow, a Sacramento, Calif., atheist who has worked with FFRF on several cases involving state-church issues. “We’ll keep trying.”

“The Foundation will continue to raise consciousness on the harm to nonreligious children and their families created by daily recitation in our schools of a pledge that ties patriotism to piety and distorts perceptions about our secular government,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

FFRF and a Hanover, N.H., couple with three children in the schools filed a federal suit in 2007 challenging the 2002 New Hampshire School Patriot Act that requires schools to set aside time each day to recite the pledge.

U.S. District Judge Steven J. McAuliffe’s 2008 ruling against the plaintiffs was appealed to the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. The appeals court upheld the district court in 2010.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Newdow argued that atheists are the nation’s “most disenfranchised religious minority” and need the high court’s protection.

When Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge in 1892, the words were: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” After intense lobbying by religious groups, “under God” was inserted in 1954.

FFRF and Newdow are eyeing other courts in which to take challenges because of continued requests from nonreligious parents and teachers to help them keep religion out of public schools, Gaylor said.

“We thank Michael Newdow for his dedicated pro bono legal work to restore the pledge to its original secular wording and also thank our New Hampshire family for serving as local plaintiffs.”

Co-President Dan Barker said FFRF remains committed to undoing a constitutional violation which creates a hostile atmosphere for nonreligious citizens. “Until all Americans are treated equally and none is made to feel like an outsider, we will not be ‘one nation, indivisible,’ ” Barker said. “We are a nation under a secular and godless Constitution. When Congress tampered with the secular pledge, it breached the wall of separation between religion and government.”

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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