Newdow surprises many, gets high marks in arguing Pledge case.

As GeekMom mentioned in a post to an earlier thread, atheist Michael Newdow’s day in the Supreme Court yesterday went better than many, myself included, had expected. Not only was a report at The Slate on Newdow’s performance very complimentary, but it left the reporter asking a question that I’m sure is crossing the minds of a lot of moderate minded believers who initially decried the 9th Circuit’s decision:

    “The case is a mess because, whatever you may think about God or the pledge, if you really apply the case law and really think “God” means “God,” then Newdow is right. But Newdow can’t be right. Can he?” – Dahlia Lithwick, Slate senior editor.

Yeah, actually, he could be right if past case history from the Supreme Court itself is any indication. Seems Newdow did so well he’s even earned the respect of the opposition arguing in defense of the Pledge:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP – Washington, D.C.

“I think he surprised a lot of people. He was superb,” said Kenneth Starr, a veteran Supreme Court lawyer who opposes Newdow’s position.

“I’d give him an `A.’ He remained undeterred during intense questioning,” said Jay Sekulow, chief attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, which also supports keeping the Pledge of Allegiance as is.

As an atheist, Newdow said, hearing the phrase one nation under God is like “getting slapped in the face.”

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist sought to clip Newdow’s argument that the words “under God” are divisive, noting that Congress unanimously added the phrase in 1954. Newdow was ready with a quick response.

“That’s only because no atheists can be elected to office,” Newdow said to laughter, then scattered applause in the courtroom. He cited state bans, which are not enforced, against atheists winning elections.

He’s quite right on that point as well. Seven states (Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas) have articles in their Constitutions that ban atheists from holding a public office.  I meant to write about that one back when I first heard about it, but never got around to it.

I have written previously, however, about how a majority (52%) of Americans polled in 2002 said they would not vote for a well-qualified candidate for President if he’s an atheist. Compare that to the fact that the same poll indicated an increase in the belief that Islam promotes violence (from 25% to 44%) and yet only 38% of people wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified Muslim for President. Hell, for that matter results from another poll indicate than an openly-gay candidate stands a better chance of being elected President than an atheist does. So even where it isn’t technically against the law to hold public office if you’re an atheist the chances of actually getting elected are small unless you hide your religious affiliation, or lie about it. has some more coverage of the case including this interesting blurb on new polling data showing support for the Pledge as it currently stands and how opinions on it vary dependent on education level and political affiliation:

A new poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly support the reference to God. Almost nine in 10 people said the reference to God belongs in the pledge despite constitutional questions about the separation of church and state, according to an Associated Press poll.

The AP poll, conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs, found college graduates were more likely than those who did not have a college degree to say the phrase “under God” should be removed. Democrats and independents were more likely than Republicans to think the phrase should be taken out.

No big surprises there I suppose, though it is somewhat disheartening to think so many people are willing to breach the wall of separation.

5 thoughts on “Newdow surprises many, gets high marks in arguing Pledge case.

  1. In Germany, it is optional to append the phrase “so help me god” to an official oath (like an oath of office or an oath at court).

    When the relationship between Bush and Schr

  2. I must say im glad to hear this, i was hoping he was’nt going to crack.

    It takes guts to do what he is doing, i wish ALL 14-20% of the population that calls themselves Atheist would step up to plate like he has.
    I would gladly help in anyway i could but living where i am I know of no Atheist activist groups within several hundred miles.
    Atheist make up approx 10% of my state.

    It is truely scarey to see 100% of the Senate vote to keep the Pledge of Allegiance as it is or more correctly as its been modified since 1954 from its original state.
    Then hear all the total ignorance coming from government officials.

    I thought if he could keep his cool he would do well because lets face it he is Atheist so odds are he is more intelligent than 85+% of everyone in the court, AND he has all the factual evidence on his side.

    Plus the 9th circuit has already ruled in his favor.
    I have a feeling though the Supreme court will do their usual manure though and come up with something that really should’nt have any bearing on the case as a way out.

    Will be excellent if he wins, and very disturbing if he loses.
    Technically on the evidence alone he cant lose, he is clearly in the right without question.
    If he loses that is a BIG stepping stone that could very well lead to the USA becoming a Theocracy in time since im sure this would snowball.
    We are on the razors edge of one right now.

  3. Micheal Newdow wins $1M judgement. In internet post, after a 2002 court decision in Newdow’s favor, Rev. Austin Miles claimed that Newdow had commited perjury saying that Newdow lied about his daughter suffering emotional damage. Newdow denied having made that statement.

    The converse of it pays to check your facts before you publish.

    This article appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 6/11/04 p. A8. It is an AP story but I couldn’t find an on-line link.

  4. I am writing to say somthing.  Out of 90% of people believeing in GOD 10% do not. If they do not believe in GOD than so be it.  This is showing how our founding forfathers have wasted there time in making us a free,  desirable,  stable country. You do not have to take money,  you do not have to say the pledge of alligence,  you do not have to sing the nationla anthem.  It is your choice.

  5. I am writing to say somthing.  Out of 90% of people believeing in GOD 10% do not. If they do not believe in GOD than so be it.  This is showing how our founding forfathers have wasted there time in making us a free, desirable, stable country. You do not have to take money, you do not have to say the pledge of alligence, you do not have to sing the nationla anthem.  It is your choice.

    The problem with that, Anthony, is that things like the pledge are invasive. True, the school system can’t force my (hypothetical) son to say the pledge, but they can make him stand there silently while the rest of the class says it and stares at him because he’s the only one not conforming. That’s not a nice thing to do to anyone, much less a child.

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