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'Under God'

Aired October 14, 2003 - 13:19   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "I pledge allegiance to the flag," words many school kids recite everyday. Now the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Pledge will stay in schools.
Joining me now to talk about it, Michael Newdow, who touched off this debate when he sued the Sacramento, California school district saying the pledge violated his young daughter's religious liberty.

Mr. Newdow, good to have you with us. Were you surprised that the Supreme Court took this one up?

MICHAEL NEWDOW, BOUGHT LAWSUIT OVER PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE: No. I think it was the most likely thing. We didn't know what they would do. But as I say, that was probably the most likely thing.

O'BRIEN: All right, Justice Scalia has recused himself from this. That is something you had hoped for. Why?

NEWDOW: Well, had spoken -- first of all, I want to say I admire Justice Scalia for doing that. The way it works, is you just submit a request and he acts on it on his own. There's nothing he has to do. He does whatever he chooses.

But he had spoken earlier this year in January at an event, and he said the case was wrongly decided. And the way the law works if there's any appearance of partiality, the judge is obligated to recuse himself, and he did.

O'BRIEN: So do you feel that increases your chances of a favorable ruling from your camp?

NEWDOW: I suppose it does, although I think that the chances of not having a favorable ruling for my camp are close to nil. This case is the easiest case they're going to have. The law is clearly on my side.

O'BRIEN: Of course that particular circuit court is overturned frequently by the Supreme Court. How can you be so confident?

NEWDOW: Because just read the Supreme Court's decisions in establishing cause of law. By every single test that they've even enunciated, sticking the two words "under God" in the middle of the pledge is clearly unconstitutional

O'BRIEN: Well, if it's that clear cut, why bother to take up the case then? NEWDOW: Well, because right now, there's conflict. The 7th Circuit decided the other way. Plus, if they didn't take up the case, we've have half the country saying "under God," and half the country not saying that. That would be kind of untenable.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk a little bit about how this has affected you and your family. This has been a tough road to hoe, a lot of criticism directed your way, and it's also led to a bit of a family feud. Do you have any regrets at this juncture about engaging in this battle?

NEWDOW: Actually, I'm very happy that finally the family law issues are going to get heard, not so much for my case. We have the most unconstitutional system that we have had in this country since slavery. We have what's called the family law system. People have their time with their children ripped from them, and the children have the time with their parents ripped from them parents based on nothing. We have these frauds, these psychologists, who know nothing more than you or I, telling us what's best for our children. It's incredible. And hopefully the details of -- I mean, I don't like my family matters to get out in public, but the details of everyone, of all the people who have been abused by this system will get out, and people will realize that.

O'BRIEN: Caught in the middle of all this is your daughter, who at the start of all this was 5, is 9 now. Do you have any regrets of getting her in the middle of all this?

NEWDOW: She wasn't in the middle of all this when I brought the case. I never brought her into this. First of all, she has different a different name, last name. She was out of it. Yes, people could find her if they chose. But I've always said, this is my case. I have the right to send my child to public school without her being infiltrated with religious belief.

Furthermore, I brought this case on my own behalf. I said I have a right to have a Pledge of Allegiance that doesn't have "God" in the middle of it.

O'BRIEN: You're an atheist, but your ex-wife is Christian.

NEWDOW: No ex-wife, please, the mother of my child.

O'BRIEN: The mother of your child. My apologies.

And takes your daughter to church. That doesn't leave you discomforted?

NEWDOW: That she takes her to church? No, I love that idea. I like my child to be exposed to as many views as there are, and I talk my child and discuss atheist things with her. She'll grow up and she'll decide what she feels is most appropriate.

O'BRIEN: All right, his there any great harm. Children are not compelled to say the pledge. They can bow out as it stands now. That's an old court ruling. Is there really any great harm that befalls children in just remaining silent?

NEWDOW: Was there a great harm in Rosa Parks having to sit in the back of the bus. She got to her designation no matter what. The question is, do we want people to be second-class citizens on the basis of their religious beliefs? And I don't think we want that any more than we want them to be second-class citizens based on the color of their skin.

O'BRIEN: Michael Newdow, thank you for very much. We'll see you in court. Thank you very much.


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