California: beaches, Silicon Valley, Valley Girls.
And offended atheists.
Another story about another atheist filing another suit.
Sacramento atheist made an ardent plea to a federal appeals court Tuesday to respect his religion and remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.
“I want to be treated equally,” said Michael Newdow, who argued both cases consecutively to a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “They want to have their religious views espoused by the government.”
Nedow, obviously an astute reader of the New York Times is afraid his daughter may somehow succumb to the lures of thousands of years of Judeo-Christian thought by studying money or pledging allegiance.
The stalwart atheist is no stranger to the ups-and-downs of the court system.
Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer, sued his daughter’s school district in 2000 for forcing public school children to recite the pledge, saying it was unconstitutional.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Newdow’s favor in 2002, but two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he lacked standing to sue because he didn’t have custody of the daughter on whose behalf he brought the case. He immediately filed a second lawsuit on behalf of three unidentified parents and their children in another district.
In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento again found in favor of Newdow, ruling the pledge was unconstitutional. The judge said he was following the precedent set by the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling in Newdow’s first case.
The same panel also heard arguments in Newdow’s case against the national motto, “In God We Trust.”
In 2005, Newdow sued Congress and several federal officials, arguing the motto’s presence on coins and currency violated his First Amendment rights.
Last year, a federal judge in Sacramento disagreed, saying the words did not violate Newdow’s atheism, and Newdow appealed.
The school district involved argued for history and patriotism, but the judge seemed unmoved.
Terence Cassidy, a lawyer for the school district, argued Tuesday that reciting the pledge is simply a “patriotic exercise” and a reminder of the historical traditions of the U.S.
Judge Dorothy W. Nelson asked Cassidy whether removing the words “under God” would make the pledge any less patriotic.
“Not necessarily,” he replied, arguing it provided a historical context, not a religious one.
Nedow the atheist, ever sensitive to his own considerations, then presents his reasons why the vast majority’s considerations should be ignored.
But Newdow countered the pledge has “tons of religious significance. That’s why everyone gets so angry when we talk about … taking it out.”
Newdow’s arguments were lively and impassioned, filled with references to legal precedence, Bible quotations and historical references. He said repeatedly he didn’t advocate hostility toward God or religion and respected people’s right to believe whatever they wanted to believe. He said he wanted equal respect for atheists, who’ve long been disenfranchised.
“They can’t use the machinery of the state to get that (religious) message across,” he said.
As always, the fine members of the U.S. Judiciary show that their thinking is in tune with the majority of Americans.
Although a Justice Department lawyer helped the school board make its case, the judges appeared determined to right the wrong that “Under God” is doing to the country, in general, and Nedow’s now-teenage daughter, in particular, great harm.
On Tuesday, Justice Department lawyer Lowell Sturgill Jr. said “In God We Trust,” is not an endorsement of a particular faith, but simply a patriotic or ceremonial message.
Questioning from the judges seemed to indicate their willingness to get the matters to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.
“How is pledging allegiance to a nation under God not a religious act?” Nelson asked.
“It affects Mr. Newdow every moment of his life,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt said. “The government has no compelling interest to put a slogan on a dollar bill.”
Congress first authorized a reference to God on a two-cent piece in 1864. In 1955, the year after lawmakers added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, Congress passed a law requiring all U.S. currency to carry the motto “In God We Trust.”
My, how judicial reasoning has advanced in the last 50 years.
Atheists hold themselves up as islands of offended reason surrounded by a sea of intolerance.
Usually, one can measure the magnitude of an offense by how strongly the offended believes in something. For example: the general skeptic is amused, but not easily offended, by stories of UFOs or ghosts.
For a group who makes their mark by emphasizing what they don’t believe, atheists once again demonstrate a micro-thin skin. Or an inability to tolerate a traditional patriotic point of view.
notes: Little Baby Ginn
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.