Mom: Girl not harmed by pledging 'under God'
July 16, 2002 Posted: 8:21 PM EDT (0021 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The mother of the young California girl at the center of the legal battle over the use of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance said Tuesday that her daughter is not an atheist and has not been harmed by saying the pledge in school.

Sandy Banning has hired an attorney to intervene in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reconsidering a decision by a three-judge panel of the court holding that the phrase "under God" makes the pledge unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

The case was brought by the girl's father, Michael Newdow, who is an atheist. Banning and Newdow are not married. He is challenging her full custody of the girl.

"I see my role as just correcting the record and making sure that the American people know that my daughter is being raised in a Christian home," Banning said on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports."

"She attends Sunday school and I teach Sunday school. And I believe the court record indicates or implies that my daughter is an atheist."

She said her daughter is aware of the decision, having talked to her father about it and seen him on television.

Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 
 
"Her response was, 'That's OK, Mom, because even if they do change the Pledge of Allegiance, I'll still say "under God," and no one will know that I'm breaking the law,'" Banning said.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, created widespread public outrage late last month when it ruled the pledge violated the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state.

An 11-member panel of the appeals court is now reconsidering the decision, which was denounced by President Bush and both houses of Congress.

Banning accused Newdow of using the girl to pursue his own agenda.

"I think that the record shows that he is using her and claiming that she's been harmed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. And I want to correct that statement," she said.

But in a statement e-mailed to CNN Tuesday, Newdow denied the charge and said he has tried to keep his daughter's name out of the case.

"I have repeatedly made it clear that this is my lawsuit, not my daughter's. I have done everything I could to distance her from the controversy and to conceal her identity," he wrote.

"I'm deeply disappointed that she's been otherwise brought into the controversy, and I will continue to do what I can to keep her out."

Paul Sullivan, Banning's attorney, said Newdow brought the girl into the case by asserting in his lawsuit that she had been injured by being required to say the pledge, and he said the court's opinion alluded to the girl being an atheist.

"We are going to be intervening in the 9th Circuit to get this information before the court to make certain that the record reflects what Ms. Banning wants -- No. 1, that the daughter is not an atheist, and, No. 2, that she has no opposition and hasn't been injured by the pledge," he said.

 


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