Terence Cassidy, a lawyer for the school district, argued Tuesday that reciting the pledge is simply a "patriotic exercise" and a reminder of the traditions of the U.S.In the money case, the Justice Department lawyer also pushed the God-as-patriotism notion.
"How is pledging allegiance to a nation under God not a religious act?" Judge Dorothy W. Nelson asked. Cassidy said the pledge has religious elements but is not a religious exercise.
Newdow said the pledge has "tons of religious significance. That's why everyone gets so angry when we talk about ... taking it out."
Nelson asked Cassidy whether removing the words "under God" would make the pledge any less patriotic.
"Not necessarily," he replied, arguing it provided a historical context, not a religious one.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt indicated support for Newdow's position.I'm almost certain that if the 9th Circuit agrees with Newdow, the Supreme Court will accept the generic "God" that has become such a familiar presence in the Pledge and on the coins. There will be talk of history and the phrase "ceremonial deism" will be thrown about and the controversy will be packed away and reshelved for a generation.
The "In God We Trust" motto "affects Mr. Newdow every moment of his life," Reinhardt said. "The government has no compelling interest to put a slogan on a dollar bill."
What will be interesting however, will be to see the various presidential candidates needled over this issue, because this is exactly the kind of thing that people get all excited about (even though it has nothing really to do with running the country). It was troublesome in 2004. (I think the Supreme Court majority that disposed of the case by concocting a new standing doctrine did John Kerry a great favor 4 months before the election.) It's irritating to see this issue rearing up now.