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
"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
"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
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,'"
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
"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
"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
Back to the Stories &