SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) — An atheist who sued because he did not want his young daughter exposed to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance has filed another lawsuit — this time with other parents.
Michael Newdow won his case more than two years ago before a federal appeals court, which said it was an unconstitutional blending of church and state for public school students to pledge to God.
In June, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying Newdow could not lawfully sue because he did not have custody of his elementary school-aged daughter and because the girl’s mother objected to the lawsuit.
In the latest challenge filed Monday in Sacramento federal court, eight co-plaintiffs have joined the suit, and all are custodial parents or the children themselves, Newdow said.
The plaintiffs’ names have been withheld from the lawsuit.
“It’s because of the potential adverse impacts of having your name on a case like this. That’s why they are not named,” Newdow said Wednesday.
He had promised to refile when the Supreme Court dismissed his case this summer.
“I want this decided on its merits,” said Newdow, a doctor and a lawyer, who again is the attorney in the latest pledge case.
Although the Supreme Court sidestepped the broader question of separation of church and state when it tossed the case, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote separately that the pledge as recited by schoolchildren does not violate the Constitution. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas agreed with him.
A fourth justice, Antonin Scalia, removed himself from the case after making off-the-bench remarks that seemed to telegraph his view that the pledge is constitutional.
Rehnquist wrote that the phrase “one nation under God” is more about ceremony and history than about religion. He likened the phrase to the motto “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, and to the call that opens each session of the high court itself: “God save this honorable court.”
Vickram Amar, a constitutional scholar at Hastings College of the Law, said that “this case starts with a 0-4 handicap from the Supreme Court’s point of view. Lower court judges are not going to be oblivious to that” when they consider the issue.
No court date has been set.