for The Becket Fund on Dec. 5, 2007
San Francisco, CA - The phrase "One Nation Under God" went on trial here today, as Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, President of the Becket Fund asked a federal appeals court to overturn a ban on saying the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. In 2005, atheist activist Michael Newdow had succeeded in convincing a Sacramento court to ban the Pledge in the lawsuit Newdow v. Carey because he found the two words "under God" offensive to his atheist beliefs.
Hasson, who argued the case on behalf of schoolchildren who want to continue to say the Pledge, engaged the appeals judges in lively argument before a packed courtroom that included several of Mr. Newdow's boisterous supporters. Hasson pre-empted Newdow's arguments by arguing that the phrase "under God" has always been used in American history as a way of protecting rights, not violating them. That's because "God-given rights" are rights the government can't take away.
After argument, Hasson commented, "This is about a lot more than just how school kids start their day. It's about where the next generation thinks its rights come from -- the creator or the state."
The Becket Fund is also representing the Knights of Columbus in the lawsuit. The Knights spearheaded the original campaign to include the words "under God" in the Pledge.
The court is expected to issue a decision within months.