SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 5 (AP) – An atheist who sued because he did not want his young daughter exposed to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance has filed another lawsuit – this time with other parents.
The plaintiff, Michael Newdow, won his case more than two years ago before a federal appeals court, which said it was an unconstitutional blending of church and state for public school students to pledge to God.
In June, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying Dr. Newdow could not lawfully sue because he did not have custody of his elementary-school-age daughter and because her mother objected to the lawsuit.
In the latest challenge, which was filed Monday in federal court in Sacramento, eight co-plaintiffs have joined the suit, and all are custodial parents or the children themselves, Dr. Newdow said.
The plaintiffs’ names have been withheld from the lawsuit.
“It’s because of the potential adverse impacts of having your name on a case like this; that’s why they are not named,” Dr. Newdow said Wednesday.
He had promised to refile when the Supreme Court dismissed his case.
“I want this decided on its merits,” said Dr. Newdow, a doctor and a lawyer, who again is the lawyer in the latest pledge case.
Though the Supreme Court sidestepped the broader question of separation of church and state when it rejected the case, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote separately that the pledge as recited by schoolchildren did not violate the Constitution. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas agreed.
A fourth justice, Antonin Scalia, removed himself from the case after making off-the-bench remarks that seemed to telegraph his view that the pledge is constitutional.
Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that the phrase “one nation under God” was more about ceremony and history than about religion. He likened the phrase to the motto “In God We Trust” on United States currency, and to the call that opens each session of the Supreme Court itself: “God save this honorable court.”
Vikram Amar, a constitutional scholar at Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, said that “this case starts with a 0-4 handicap from the Supreme Court’s point of view.”
“Lower court judges are not going to be oblivious to that” when they consider the issue, Mr. Amar said.
No court date has yet been set.