Last updated on: 3/3/2010 11:56:00 AM PST | Author: ProCon.org
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.
Link to Source Document
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.