Mom in Pledge Case Says Daughter Is Christian

Revelation Could Undermine Legitimacy of Lawsuit

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, JULY 12, 2002 ( The 8-year-old girl whose father sued to have the Pledge of Allegiance declared unconstitutional has no problem with reciting the pledge at school, her mother says.

“I was concerned that the American public would be led to believe that my daughter is an atheist or that she has been harmed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words ‘one nation under God,'” Sandra Banning said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. “We are practicing Christians and are active in our church.”

Banning never married Michael Newdow, the third-grader’s father and the atheist behind the pledge lawsuit, the AP. She has full custody of the girl, which Newdow is challenging in court.

It was Banning’s first public comment since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow that the words “under God” make the pledge an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The ruling is on hold pending appeals.

Some legal experts said the mother’s revelation the girl herself willingly recites the pledge at school could undercut the legitimacy of the case. Courts only can hear cases in which there is an injured party, and if there is no injury there is no grounds for a case, said Rory Little, a Hastings College of the Law professor.

In his lawsuit, Newdow argued that his daughter was “injured” by being forced to listen to others recite the pledge at the Elk Grove Unified School District.

He said Thursday that he has the right to determine how she is raised. Besides, “The main thrust of this case is not my daughter, it’s me,” he said.

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