The California physician who stirred nationwide controversy with his legal challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance’s reference to God has announced he will again take his battle to the courts.
Michael Newdow filed a new lawsuit Jan. 3 in U.S. district court in California on behalf of himself and several other public school parents and students who argue that the words “under God” render the Pledge an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
According to Religion News Service, Newdow said he has “a right to not have a Pledge of Allegiance that advocates for some religious dogma that I disagree with.”
Newdow’s lawsuit, more than 140 pages in length, also argues on behalf of public school students who are “staunch Atheists,” asserting they have been made to feel like outsiders in their communities.
“That has occurred in their roles as students, in the setting of their public school classrooms,” reads Newdow v. Congress. “Their lives have literally been changed — with harassment and ostracism — on account of their adherence to their religious beliefs. This is an egregious harm to inflict on citizen children.”
In June of 2002, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Newdow’s favor, concluding that the Pledge could not be used in public schools because of its religious content. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in summer 2004 dismissed the 9th Circuit’s ruling, saying that Newdow did not have standing to pursue the case. Newdow had brought the suit on behalf of his daughter, a public school student. But he has only partial custody of the child, and the high court dismissed the case before reaching the constitutional question.