Last updated on: 3/3/2010 | Author:

Newdow v. US Congress, Pledge Case #1 (2000-2004)

Elk Grove Unified School District, et al. v. Newdow

Description: On Mar. 8, 2000, Plaintiff Michael Newdow (Newdow), on behalf of himself and his daughter as “next friend,” brought this lawsuit (originally Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al.) challenging the recitation of the US Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on June 26, 2002, that the US Pledge of Allegiance violated the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the Constitution due to the words “under God,” and thus could not be recited in public schools. The court also held that Newdow had standing as a parent to challenge a practice that interferes with his right to direct his daughter’s religious edcuation.

Elk Grove Unified School District appealed to the US Supreme Court on Apr. 30, 2003. The Supreme Court granted the School District’s appeal petition to consider two questions: (1) whether Newdow had standing as a noncustodial parent to challenge the School District’s pledge policy, and (2) if so, whether the policy offended the First Amendment. Oral arguments took place on Mar. 24, 2004. On June 14, 2004 the Supreme Court announced its unanimous judgment to reverse the 9th Circuit’s decision. The court reasoned (in a 5-3 decision) that Newdow “lacked prudential standing” to challenge the school district’s Pledge of Allegiance policy in federal court because he was concurrently involved in a California family court dispute with his daughter’s mother, and because the mother stated that she wanted their child to recite the Pledge as worded with “under God.” The five justices ruling against Newdow’s standing did not address the constitutional question. Justice Scalia recused himself, and the remaining three justices concurred with the majority opinion to reverse the 9th Circuit Court, but dissented on the issue of standing.

To get around the prudential standing issue, Newdow had three families anonymously join him as co-plaintiffs in his next attempt (Newdow v. Carey, 2005 – 2010) to end the recitation of the US Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.




Documents Date Link to Source Document
1. Original complaint filed: The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Newdow, In Pro Per; Plaintiff, v. The Congress of the United States of America; The United States of America; William J. Clinton, President of the United States; The State of California; The Elk Grove Unified School District (“EGUSD”); David W. Gordon, Superintendent, EGUSD; The Sacramento City Unified School District (“SCUSD”); Dr. Jim Sweeney, Superintendent, SCUSD; Defendants.    


Mar. 8, 2000 Full Text  
2. Decision, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Newdow v. US    


June 26, 2002 Full Text
3. Petition by US Government in support of En Banc review of 9th Circuit Court decision in Newdow v. US    


Aug. 9, 2002 Full Text  
4. Brief filed before US Supreme Court by the United States as Respondent Supporting Petitioners (Elk Grove Unified School District)    


Nov. 13, 2002 Full Text  
5. Reply Brief filed before US Supreme Court on behalf of The United States    


July 2003 Full Text  
6. Motion for Justice Scalia‘s recusal    


Sep. 9, 2003 Full Text  
7. Michael Newdow’s “Respondent’s Brief on the Merits” filed before US Supreme Court    


Feb. 13, 2004 Full Text  
8. Transcripts of the oral arguments made before the Supreme Court    


Mar. 24, 2004 Full Text  
9. US Supreme Court ruling    


June 14, 2004 Full Text  




Amicus Briefs

The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Newdow, in pro per, v. Congress of the United States, The Elk Grove Unified School District, et al.

Pro “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance



Con “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance


Party Document Party Document
1. Sen. George Allen, The Committee to Protect the Pledge, et al Full Text   1. American Atheists Full Text  
2. American Legion Full Text   2. The American Humanist Association, The Association of Humanistic Rabbis, The Humanist Society, The HUUmanists and The Society for Humanistic Judaism Full Text
3. American Jewish Congress Full Text   3. Americans United for Separation of Church and State Full Text  
4. Attorney Generals of all 50 states Full Text 4. Anti-Defamation League Full Text  
5. Sandra L. Banning Full Text   5. Atheist Law Center Full Text  
6. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and The Thomas More Law Center Full Text   6. Atheists for Human Rights Full Text  
7. The Center for Individual Freedom Full Text 7. Atheists and Other Freethinkers Full Text  
8. Christian Legal Society, The Center for Public Justice, Concerned Women for America and Christian Educators Association International Full Text 8. Buddhist temples, centers and organizations Full Text  
9. The Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence Full Text   9. Clergy Full Text
10. Common Good Foundation, Your Catholic Voice Foundation, and the National Clergy Council Full Text 10. Church of Freethought Full Text  
11. Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Alliance Defense Fund Full Text   11. Council for Secular Humanism Full Text  
12. Grassfire.Net Full Text 12. Christopher L. Eisengruber and Lawrence G. Sager Full Text
13. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, et al Full Text 13. Freedom From Religion Foundation Full Text  
14. Knights of Columbus Full Text 14. History and legal scholars Full Text  
15. Liberty Counsel, Wallbuilders and William J. Federer Full Text   15. Barbara A. McGraw Full Text  
16. National Education Association Full Text 16. Religious Scholars and Theologians Full Text  
17. National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs Full Text   17. Rob Sherman Advocacy Full Text
18. National School Boards Association Full Text   18. Seattle Atheists, Secular Coalition for America, Atheist Community of Austin and Institute for Humanist Studies Full Text
19. Pacific Justice Institute Full Text   19. The Universal Pantheist Society, Pantheist Association for Nature and World Pantheist Movement Full Text  
20. Pacific Research Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation Full Text      
21. The Rutherford Institute Full Text      
22. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution Full Text