Litigant explains why he brought Pledge suit

June 26, 2002 Posted: 11:53 PM EDT (0353 GMT)

Michael Newdow 
Michael Newdow   

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(CNN) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday ruled the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion" and cannot be recited in the nation's public schools.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 1954 act of Congress that inserted the phrase "under God" after the words "one nation."

The case had been filed against the United States, the U.S. Congress, California, two school districts and its officials by Michael Newdow, an atheist whose daughter attends public school in California.

Shortly after the court announced its decision, Newdow talked to CNN's Arthel Neville by phone during "Talkback Live."

Neville: Mr. Newdow, thank you for joining us and tell us what you think of all of this.

Newdow: I think the Constitution has been upheld. I think they made the right decision.

Neville: At what point did your daughter come home to you and say she was ostracized for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance?

Newdow: My daughter is in the lawsuit because you need that for standing. I brought this case because I am an atheist and this offends me, and I have the right to bring up my daughter without God being imposed into her life by her schoolteachers. So she did not come and say she was ostracized.

Neville: Why do you think that it wasn't enough just to tell your daughter, "It's OK not to say this if you don't want to say this, if you don't believe this"?

Newdow: I believe in the Constitution. The Constitution says that government isn't supposed to be infusing religion into our society, and so I asked to have that upheld.

Neville: So you are pleased with this and you plan to see this all the way to the top, if necessary, I understand.

Newdow: Obviously, I'll keep fighting to uphold the Constitution.

Neville: Did you feel any hesitation about filing this lawsuit? After all, you are bucking the system.

Newdow: It's one of the nice things about this nation that when the Constitution is violated, if it affects you, you can bring a suit. You don't need powerful lobbies, you can just do it as an individual, which I did.

Neville: I have some reaction here in the audience. I think Mike from Alabama wants to say something to you, Mr. Newdow.

Audience member: We are talking about the greatest flag to the greatest nation in the world, I can't believe that Americans will allow something like this to go by without voicing their opinion. This is ludicrous to me. I just can't believe that the courts would give him the time of day.

Newdow: I agree, it is the greatest nation and what has made it great is our Constitution. The framers were quite wise in recognizing what religion can do and how it can cause hatred and how it can cause death. You don't have to go far in this world, outside of our nation, to see where that has happened. It is prevalent over the entire globe and the reason we don't have it here is because we have an establishment clause ... If Mike there from Alabama wouldn't mind saying "we are one nation under Buddha" every day, or "one nation under David Koresh" or "one nation" under some religious icon that he doesn't believe in ... if he doesn't understand the difference then we have a problem.

Neville: What sort of support are you getting from your family and friends?

Newdow: Most people I know I think agree and even many theists agree with this. We don't want government involved. When atheists become the majority in this country, I don't think the theists are going to be glad to have "one nation under no God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Neville: What about the currency? Do you think it should be taken off the coins and currency here?

Newdow: Absolutely

Neville: Even if it cost a lot of money to do that?

Newdow: It cost a lot of money to put it on there and no one complained then. This issue is whether or not our government should be infusing religion into (schools). Our churches are very strong in this nation and I think that's great and everybody should have the ability to worship as he or she sees fit. I choose to worship not believing in God and government should not thrust a religious idea down my throat.

Neville: How long have you been contemplating this suit?

Newdow: One day I was just looking at the coins (that) is what brought this up. I saw "In God We Trust" on my coins. I said, "I don't trust in God," what is this? And I recalled there was something in the Constitution that said you're not allowed to do that and so I did some research. And as soon as I did the research, I realized the law seemed to be on my side and I filed the suit. It's a cool thing to do. Everyone should try it.

Neville: Thank you, Mr. Michael Newdow.

 




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