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Federal judge to stay ruling in Pledge case

By The Associated Press

Editor’s note: On Dec. 4, 2007, the 9th Circuit heard arguments in the case, which was consolidated with another lawsuit Newdow filed challenging the use of “In God We Trust” on currency, but no decision has emerged.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal judge yesterday set the stage for an atheist and three Sacramento-area school districts to take their dispute over the Pledge of Allegiance to an appeals court.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said he would stay a ruling he made last month, meaning the schools can continue to have children recite the pledge. The case is Newdow v. Congress, 05-17.

In his previous finding, Karlton said he was bound by a 2002 ruling of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools because it contains the words "under God."

That lawsuit was brought by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who is now representing two Sacramento-area families in a similar suit.

The school districts contend that Karlton isn't bound by that decision in the new lawsuit; Newdow says the judge is.

"We're pleased that he announced that he would immediately enter a stay of any injunction that he would enter so that the school district would not change its day-to-day procedure and would be able to keep reciting the Pledge of Allegiance," said Terrence Cassidy, the attorney representing the school districts.

Karlton set Oct. 26 as the date the school districts must file a motion to dismiss the case. Newdow, the attorney who is driving the case and representing the plaintiffs, must file documents proving his clients have standing to sue the schools by that date. Their names have been kept secret so far.

The losing party will then be able to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Yesterday's setting of a deadline is the latest development in Newdow's attempt to ban the pledge from public schools.

A Sacramento doctor and lawyer who is an avowed atheist, Newdow says it is unconstitutional to recite the pledge in public schools because it contains the words "under God," making it an illegal endorsement of religion. He took his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2004 in Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow said he lacked standing to bring the case because he didn't have custody of his daughter.

He brought the latest lawsuit with a different set of plaintiffs, parents with children in the Elk Grove Unified School District, Rio Linda Unified School District and Elverta Unified School District.

Newdow said yesterday that simply removing the phrase "under God" from the pledge would confuse children.

"I think we need to gut the pledge and come up with a new unifying pledge," he said.

He said he had spoken to people who remembered when the phrase "under God" was added in 1954 and told him "it threw off the cadence and it was difficult for them."

Justice Department to fight to keep Pledge in public schools
Meanwhile, Senate passes nonbinding resolution condemning federal judge's ruling that oath can't be recited in classrooms because it contains phrase 'under God.' 09.16.05


Justices sidestep 'In God We Trust' dispute

Supreme Court won't review 4th Circuit ruling allowing national motto on government building; meanwhile, Michael Newdow says he plans to challenge use of phrase on U.S. currency. 11.14.05

Court rejects atheist's challenge to 'In God We Trust'

Federal judge says words on currency amount to secular national slogan that doesn't trample on Michael Newdow's non-religious views. 06.13.06

House votes to bar federal courts from ruling on Pledge
Opponents say such a law would undercut judicial independence, deny religious minorities legal access. 07.20.06

Newdow's libel lawsuit survives in court ruling
Atheist who challenged 'under God' in Pledge of Allegiance can proceed against preacher who accused him of perjury. 10.26.06

Texas adds 'under God' to state Pledge
By Courtney Holliday Bill author says measure was meant to make state oath mirror national one, but critics say new law could violate students' religious liberties. 07.11.07

Newdow seeks to bar references to God from inauguration
California atheist sues to remove phrase 'so help me God,' other religious references from presidential oath of office, block invocation prayer from Pastor Rick Warren. 12.31.08

Fighting over religion in 2006: Déjà vu all over again?
By Charles C. Haynes Intelligent design, Ten Commandments, Pledge of Allegiance, Bible courses and, yes, Christmas will continue to be contested. 01.08.06

Pledge of Allegiance & religious liberty in public schools
Pledge of Allegiance in public schools

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