The Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow Case

Subject: Law
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1346
Topics: Law Enforcement, Theology
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The court case between Newdow and Elk Grove Unified School District occurred when Michael Newdow sued the School. Michael Newdow’s Daughter attended the Elk Grove Unified School District, a public school in California. It is a norm in the school activities to start the day with a voluntary recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Pledge of Allegiance contains the words ‘under God’ added by the congressional act of 1954. However, according to Newdow, children listening to the Pledge of Allegiance even when they choose not say the words ‘under God’ is a violation of the First Amendment Act of the United States. The Supreme Court ruled that Newdow did not have enough standing to sue the school on the daughter since he does not have sufficient custody after his child. The courts dismissed the case after finding out the Michael Newdow did not have sufficient standing. They also stated that the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional and the wording will remain as it is.

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The Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow case underwent several levels of the court before the final rule. The case went through the three levels of the courts in the United States. The first time he filed the suit against the school in the district courts of California. In July 2000, the Magistrate Judge in the District Court stated that the pledge does not violate the establishment clause of the Amendment Act.  Later on, during the same year, the court of appeals reversed the ruling of the District Court and stated that Newdow had the standing to file suit in the first appeal. The second petition reconsidered its first decision about Newdow’s standing to file the case since he was also guardian to his daughter after the mother filed suit as the legal custodian of the child. Newdow later appealed the case at the Supreme Court which reached a final decision regarding the Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow Case. According to the judge in the Supreme Court, Newdow did not have the standing to file the suit since he also had another case in the family court filed by his daughter’s mother.  The arguments brought to the court led to the dismissal of the case.

The Supreme Court had several judgments regarding the Newdow case. In April 2003, the Supreme Court ruled several judgments after Elk Grove Unified School appealed. However, the court had only two questions to consider before passing their judgment. First, was to identify if Newdow was eligible as a noncustodial parent to file suit against the schools routine of reciting the pledge of allegiance. Second, was to ascertain that if the recital policy was against the First Amendment Act of the United States. The Supreme Court also reversed the decision made by the Ninth Circuit Court of appeal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the Pledge of the Allegiance violated the First Amendment Act due to the words ‘Under God’ added to The Pledge of Allegiance. On June 2004, the Supreme Court announced its undisputed judgment to reverse the decision made by the 9th Circuit.  According to the Supreme Court, Newdow did not have sufficient prudential standing to challenge The Pledge of Allegiance recital in Elk Grove Unified School District at the federal court of law. This is because Michael Newdow was still facing a dispute in the Family Court with his daughter’s mother. The mother stated in the court that she wanted her daughter to keep reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the school with the proper wording including the term ‘Under God’ as the norm of the school. However, the Supreme Court did not address the constitutional question of the violation of the First Amendment Act (Choper, 1982).

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The decision of the court regarding The Pledge of Allegiance left both a negative and positive impact among the Americans.  First, the people in America who believe in religion and that God exists were a little bit satisfied with the courts standing since the Pledge did not undergo any changes. However, many people felt that the courts were sending a negative message to everyone not only the Americans. Many people were of the opinion that the department of justice was sending the message that America is godless. There were citizens following the Newdow case and were disappointed by the ruling. They wrote letters to the president, but he responded to the letters saying that the pledge was a symbol of ‘our reliance in God’. This statement aggravated many people saying that he was imposing his religious views on everyone.  The Constitution of the United States still recognizes non-believers as citizens despite their religious views. Thus, they should not be forced to believe in God but respect their diverse views about religion. Other Americans had the perceptions that the term ‘under God in The Pledge of Allegiance is imposing religion on people (McCullum, 2004). Many Americas believe that their country stands for freedom in every faith and religious views. Thus, the country should be able to accommodate all beliefs, denominations, and sects. Imposing religion on the American people is a show of hypocrisy on the liberty of the States; the p4ople suggests that the government and the Department of Justice should stay neutral when it comes to religion.

Francis Bellany wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 as a national symbol that all Americans should recite (Canipe, 2003). The pledge has been present for over decades, and many public schools recite it as a routine before they start any activities. However, the United States Congress in 1954 added the words ‘Under God’ with the aim of creating a  difference between the United States and the Soviet Union that was believed to be atheistic (Canipe, 2003). Thus the addition of the words ‘under God’ was added to show a religious stance of the American country. The pledge now is a show of religion other than a sign of respect for the United States. The term ‘under God’ shows that everyone believes that there is a supreme being above everything else.  However, not everyone in the United States believes in the existence of God.  Many people have differing views about God in their lives. There are individuals who believe God exists and that they are under and part of the divine power. Other people do not believe that God exists at all. On the other hand, who believe that God exists, but they also believe they are not under his power. Thus, the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, public places, and in meetings shows a direct violation of the beliefs and religious stances of these people. Thus, to avoid imposing religious beliefs on the American citizens, it is important to restore the Pledge of Allegiance as it was before so all Americans can recite it as a symbol of honor and respect to the United States.

The United States is a country full of diverse views about religion. It is also evident that parents want their children to follow their religious views. I think that the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in all public schools as was the norm. In a country full of diverse views about religion, tolerance should be the central virtue that people should exercise. According to the First Amendment Act of the United States Constitution, everyone has the right to worship thus accommodating the different religious views present in the country. It is therefore clear that recital of the Pledge of Allegiance is necessary and its recital should continue in the public school’s system. People should be able to tolerate the ideas of other people and at the same time respect all their beliefs without prejudice. Citizens with a different view about the term under God should not be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance while those that wish to continue reciting the Pledge should have the opportunity to do so. The Pledge of Allegiance has been present since time immemorial, and its narration as a symbol of the American people should continue.

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  1. Canipe, L. (2003). Under God and anti-communist: How the pledge of allegiance got religion in cold war America. Journal of Church and State, 305-323.
  2. Choper, J. H. (1982). Defining religion in the First Amendment. U. Ill. L. Rev., 579.
  3. Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2003/02-1624
  4. McCullum, D. (2004). The Pledge of Allegiance and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: Why Vishnu and Jesus Aren’t In the Constitution. ESSAI, 2(1), 19.
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