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Pledge case
to be reheard?

Posted By Diana Lynne On 07/09/2002 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

The judge who rendered the controversial opinion for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional – may not have the last word.

A Justice Department official who does not wish to be named tells WorldNetDaily the U.S. solicitor general has decided to authorize a petition for a rehearing before the full court, essentially giving the government a green light to appeal the three-judge decision before it had even filed a request to do so.

Justice spokesman Charles Miller said he could not confirm the information but added, “Attorney General John Ashcroft
stated the Justice Department would request a rehearing en banc by the full Ninth Circuit. He’s the boss of the solicitor general. So I’m assuming the solicitor general will approve of it.”

The government has until early August to file the request. Once it does a majority of the 24 active appellate judges will decide whether an eleven-judge panel will rehear the case.

In the meantime, WorldNetDaily has learned the recent revelation that the daughter of the plaintiff is a churchgoing Christian who voluntarily says ‘under God’ in the pledge may potentially help the government’s case.

As WorldNetDaily reported last week, Sacramento atheist activist Michael Newdow mounted the now-infamous legal challenge against Congress for inserting the phrase “under God” in the pledge in 1954, and against the Elk Grove Unified School District for its policy to have teachers lead students in reciting the pledge in class.

Newdow filed the case on behalf of his 8-year-old, whom he told the Associated Press he is raising as an atheist.

“It’s my parental right to keep the government off my child,” AP quoted Newdow as saying.

In the suit, Newdow claims that his daughter is injured when she is compelled to “watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God, and that our’s [sic] is ‘one nation under God.’”

But Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif. contends Newdow’s argument is fraudulent. According to Smith, the second-grader and her mother, Sandra Banning, not only attend Calvary Chapel at Laguna Creek in their home town of Elk Grove, Calif., but Banning teaches Sunday School there.

“The little girl, as I understand, was never offended by ‘under God’ because she does believe in God,” Smith told
WorldNetDaily. “I understand when the decision came down, the little girl came home and said to her mother, ‘Well momma, I guess we can’t say under God anymore,’ and then she decided she could say it under her breath and no one would know the difference,’” said Smith.

Court records show Newdow and Banning embroiled in a custody battle over the daughter. Calls to both were not
returned. A call to Banning’s attorney was not immediately returned.

“I believe people need to know the truth,” said Smith. “I think we need to know the agenda of the liberal court, that they would make a decision predicated on the little girl being offended when, in fact, she never was. … They made a decision without delving into the truth of the story. It would appear to me they don’t want the truth of the story, but rather they want a hypothetical case upon which to make the decision.”

According to the Justice official, Newdow had to show standing in the case by showing that he’s been injured. He did so by asserting his daughter has been injured and he has an interest in directing her education as a parent. Judge Alfred Goodwin wrote in the majority opinion, “Newdow has standing as a parent to challenge a practice that interferes with his right to direct the religious education of his daughter.”

Could the case be considered a fraud, as Pastor Smith suggests? According to the Justice official, it would be fraud only if Newdow said something knowingly false.

Fox News reports Newdow admitted that his 8-year-old daughter voluntarily says the pledge along with her classmates in an interview following the ruling.

“This is more about me than her. I’d like to keep her out of this,” Fox quoted Newdow as saying.

But Smith and other pastors throughout California are determined to keep the girl’s reported love for God front and center by mounting a publicity campaign to win the case in the court of public opinion.

“The daughter has said she disagrees totally with what the father is doing,” Pastor Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park told WorldNetDaily. “I’m upset and I hope there will be others who are upset. It’s time for God lovers to stand up and fight the God haters.”

As WND reported, Drake led a hundred demonstrators in a four-hour rally outside of Judge Goodwin’s Pasadena house last week to protest the court ruling. Drake plans a similar event outside Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s Marina Del Rey, Calif. home on Saturday. Reinhardt joined Goodwin in the 2-1 decision.

“Reinhardt is a renegrade judge and his wife is Ramona Ripston, the executive director of the ACLU in Southern Calif.,” said Drake. “The ACLU has always tried to get rid of God.”

David Madden, public information officer of the 9th Circuit told WND the judges would have no comment.

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