Positive Atheism Forum
Title Graphic Rule
How Can We
Let Dr. Newdow Know
We Are Fully Behind Him?

Title Graphic Rule
Stephen Marks

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule

 

We are asking for messages of appreciation for Dr. Michael Newdow and will be posting those messages here. We will also forward those messages to the Good Doctor, although he'll probably just read them here!

No curses or similar railings will be accepted! This forum, admittedly biased, is only for messages of appreciation.

If you want Dr. Newdow to have your e-mail address, place it at the bottom of the letter where you sign your name.

We do not post any e-mail addresses online!!

Thank you for being involved!

 

Quote Graphic Rule
Transparent Spacer

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Marks Stephen"
Subject: Re: positive_atheism_letters_section
Date: March 25, 2004 10:01 AM

Interestingly, this very load of outgoing e-mail contains a letter to him, plus a copy of today's coverage from The New York Times, which calls Mike's performance "spellbinding" (see below). This is no small coincidence because my broadband provider, Comcast, allows a meagre ten outgoing e-mails per load (!). This is the main reason, by the way, that we don't have an active e-list right now!

My spin is this: Changing the Pledge is not a move that I would have supported as a goal: we have more important battles. But here we are: Mike has done it! We're in the middle of the decision right now. I predict this case will not be decided on Constitutional grounds but by a popularity contest, as hinted by our Chief Justice when he asked about the unanimous vote of the (McCarthyism-maddened) Congress. I'm guessing that it will come down like the Scopes trial and Michael Newdow, like Clarence Darrow, will lose the battle but will ultimately win the war for us.

I will try to touch bases with this obviously busy man and will communicate to him what he probably feels, with full impact, within himself already. While I do not believe the claims about psychic energy, I think we can assume that he has a clear awareness of just how many people -- people otherwise silent, people the world over, even people yet unborn -- appreciate the work that he is doing today. (I deliberately put appreciate in the present tense in reference to the unborn. The sense I wish to communicate is that of Richard Dawkins, hoping that somebody unborn at the time I wrote this is reading these words long after I have died. See Dawkins, "To Live at All Is Miracle Enough.")

Notwithstanding his own special awareness of the people he will touch by this sacrifice he is making, it is still crucial that we express our appreciation to him.

I will spend the rest of the evening not studying how to work my new cell phone (my first ever: I don't even know how to answer calls) but figuring how to turn out an e-list with my merge-mail program. WordPerfect has never yet failed me, and their Merge-Mail program is tops. I will ask readers to log onto this page and express their appreciation toward Mike Newdow.

This will be an unashamedly biased Forum in that I will not entertain any cursing of Mike or his work today: there is plenty of that all across the land (our land, anyway: I assume that most of your fellow citizens openly laud his effort)!

If you or any of the others who read this know of some lists or boards where the link to this page,
    http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml8345.htm
might be posted or broadcast, feel free to point people to this page so they might send an e-mail message to Mike via our Forum. I will tell Mike and several others who know him of its existence!

Thanks for your letter! Let's see what the tired, infected ol' gray matter can come up with, okay? Thankfully, my request for volunteer help has met with fruition, as readers can see by the fact that we now have De-Conversion Stories posted after two-years of medical problems put my involvement in the struggle on hold. But I'm back; we're back: let's tell Mike what we think about his work today!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight-and-one-half years of service to
          people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule
Message added: March 27, 2004

From: "Katrina Burton"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Message_for_Dr_Michael_Newdow
Date: March 26, 2004 12:08 PM

I want to stand up an applaud what you're doing. This certainly isn't an issue of your daughter having to say it, it's an issue of everyone's children having to say the Pledge as it is now written. The original wasn't written that way and it should be changed back. We must get "gods" out of our government for good!!!

Thank you, Michael, for your efforts.

Katrina Burton
Massachusetts

Graphic Rule
Message added: March 27, 2004

From: "Steve Ford"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: forum:_message_for_dr_newdow
Date: March 26, 2004 12:11 PM

Dear Dr. Newdow,

I am a public school teacher and father of a 12 year old girl and 8 year old boy. I have received censure for not making my students stand during the flag salute. Some of my religious colleagues have harassed me and tried to have me fired for practicing my civil rights. I have been offended when my children were forced to learn spelling words like Christmas, Ramadan or Chanukah, but never freethinker or atheist.

You are a brave man who has stood up for your convictions. You have made a difference in my children's life and mine. You are one of my heroes.

Thank you,
Steve Ford

==
"...this loathsome combination of church and state."
     -- Thomas Jefferson

"...the fatal theory of the separation of church and state."
     -- Pope Leo XIII

Shorter Graphic Rule

Cliff replies:

Okay!

No wonder almost nobody in America knows how to spell the word atheist, even though it's practically the only opinion about religion that's spelled exactly the way it sounds!!

Duh-ee! Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?
-- (memorable line from forgotten cartoon character)

Graphic Rule

From: "Russ Bridger"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Message_for_Dr_Michael_Newdow
Date: March 29, 2004 12:40 AM

Dr. Newdow,

Your lawsuit should have been brought 50 years ago. You are a hero to me. Unfortunately the saying "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise" rings so true. May your logic sink in to the ones who need an education in the subject.

Russ Bridger,
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Graphic Rule

From: "Geoff"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Message_for_Dr_Michael_Newdow
Date: March 29, 2004 8:23 PM

I would like to thank Mr. Newdow for his efforts, however I am worried at what will happen if this case is to fail, if it may not actually entrench religious references in our government even further.

I attended the Godless March on Washington a listened Mr. Newdow speak. I appreciate his efforts, however I hope that he respects that he is not a spokesman for all atheists and non-theists, I've hear him say quite a few things that I as an atheist disagree with, especially his classification of atheism as a type of religion, which it is not in any way.

Nevertheless, I support his efforts and hope that he is successful. I have also taken the time to write an article about this issue and have mentioned him in it, named "History of the Separation of Church and State in America."

Good luck Mr. Newdow,
Geoff

Shorter Graphic Rule

Cliff replies:

Someone suggested that if the appeal were to prevail against Dr. Newdow's position, this would serve to trivialize God to the position of a ceremonial formalism. I don't think those who seek to overthrow our Constitution understand the implications of "winning" this case.

And it's true that no atheist speaks for other atheists without their permission, which is why I'm not involved in organized atheism: nobody speaks for me unless I've given that person permission to answer my telephone. Thomas Paine, surely one of the greatest writers of the English language, pointed out the dire weakness of language -- all language. Sometimes a speaker will intend to convey a certain message but not all listeners will hear what was intended, many hearing something else.

Nevertheless, it's pretty easy to distinguish the antagonists from atheism's allies.

Graphic Rule

From: "PJ Slinger"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Message_for_Dr_Michael_Newdow
Date: March 29, 2004 8:44 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for so bravely carrying the torch for the rest of us. I have been in bitter debate with friends and relatives over this same topic for years. Knowing you have put yourself on the line to be harassed, threatened and vilified by the American public, I applaud your courage.

Best of luck to you, your family and to all of us.

P.J. Slinger
Madison, Wisconsin

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule
Transparent Spacer

The New York Times:
Newdow Presents 'Spell-binding Case'

The E-Mailed Hype Sheet:

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule

Atheist Presents Case
for Taking God
From Pledge
by Linda Greenhouse

Michael A. Newdow, who makes his living as an emergency room doctor, gave a spell-binding performance before the court.

Quote Graphic Rule

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule
Transparent Spacer

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule
Transparent Spacer

 

The New York Times:
Newdow Presents 'Spell-binding Case'

Article in The New York Times:

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule

Atheist Presents Case for Taking God From Pledge
by Linda Greenhouse

March 25, 2004

Washington, March 24 -- Michael A. Newdow stood before the justices of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, pointed to one of the courtroom's two American flags and declared: "I am an atheist. I don't believe in God."

With passion and precision, he then proceeded to argue his own case for why the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in his daughter's public school classroom violates the Constitution as long as the pledge contains the words "under God."

Dr. Newdow, a nonpracticing lawyer who makes his living as an emergency room doctor, may not win his case. In fact, justices across the ideological spectrum appeared to be searching for reasons he should lose, either on jurisdictional grounds or on the merits. But no one who managed to get a seat in the courtroom is likely ever to forget his spell-binding performance.

That includes the justices, whom Dr. Newdow engaged in repartee that, while never disrespectful, bore a closer resemblance to dinner-table one-upmanship than to formal courtroom discourse. For example, when Dr. Newdow described "under God" as a divisive addition to the pledge, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist asked him what the vote in Congress had been 50 years ago when the phrase was inserted.

The vote was unanimous, Dr. Newdow said.

"Well, that doesn't sound divisive," the chief justice observed.

Dr. Newdow shot back, "That's only because no atheist can get elected to public office."

The courtroom audience broke into applause, an exceedingly rare event that left the chief justice temporarily nonplussed. He appeared to collect himself for a moment, and then sternly warned the audience that the courtroom would be cleared "if there's any more clapping."

Earlier, Dr. Newdow responded to Justice Stephen G. Breyer's suggestion that "under God" had acquired such a broad meaning and "civic context" that "it's meant to include virtually everybody, and the few whom it doesn't include don't have to take the pledge."

"I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' " Dr. Newdow replied. "I deny the existence of God." He added, "Government needs to stay out of this business altogether."

The current Pledge of Allegiance was defended by Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and by Terence J. Cassidy, the lawyer for the Elk Grove school district in California where Dr. Newdow's daughter attends elementary school.

Both lawyers were appealing a decision won by Dr. Newdow in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. That court ruled last year that the addition of "under God" turned the pledge into a "profession of religious belief" and made it constitutionally unsuitable for daily recitation in the public schools. Congress added the phrase at the height of the cold war in an effort to distinguish the American system from "Godless Communism."

One justice, Antonin Scalia, was sharply critical of the appeals court's ruling in a speech he gave before the case reached the Supreme Court. As a result, Dr. Newdow asked Justice Scalia to recuse himself, and the justice complied, without comment, when the court accepted the case in October. His absence raises the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie, which would automatically affirm the Ninth Circuit's ruling without setting a binding precedent elsewhere.

Solicitor General Olson told the justices that the appeals court misunderstood the pledge. The phrase "under God" did not place the pledge in the category of religious expressions that the Supreme Court has found unconstitutional, he said, for example "state-sponsored prayers, religious rituals or ceremonies, or the requirement of teaching or not teaching a religious doctrine."

Rather, Mr. Olson said, "under God" was one of various "civic and ceremonial acknowledgments of the indisputable historical fact that caused the framers of our Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say that they had the right to revolt and start a new country." He said the framers believed "that God gave them the right to declare their independence when the king has not been living up to the unalienable principles given to them by God."

That description of the pledge appeared to gain little traction as the argument proceeded. "I do assume that if you read the pledge carefully, the reference to 'under God' means something more than a mere description of how somebody else once thought," Justice David H. Souter said to Dr. Newdow moments later.

Justice Souter's question for Dr. Newdow was whether, even assuming that schoolchildren were being asked "as a technical matter" to make a personal religious affirmation, the recitation had become in practice "so tepid, so diluted, so far, let's say, from a compulsory prayer that in fact it should be, in effect, beneath the constitutional radar." Was it the case, Justice Souter asked, that by "the way we live and think and work in schools and in civic society in which the pledge is made, that whatever is distinctively religious as an affirmation is simply lost?"

Dr. Newdow replied: "That is a view that you may choose to take and the majority of Americans may choose to take. But it's not the view I take, and when I see the flag and I think of pledging allegiance, it's like I'm getting slapped in the face every time, bam, you know, 'this is a nation under God, your religious belief system is wrong.' "

Before the justices can decide the merits of the case, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, No. 02-1624, they must resolve doubts about whether Dr. Newdow had standing to bring his lawsuit, either on his own behalf or on behalf of his daughter, who is now 9 years old. A court does not have jurisdiction in the absence of a plaintiff with standing.

Dr. Newdow was never married to the child's mother, Sandra Banning, who has custody and has told the court in a brief filed by Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel, that she is giving her daughter a religious upbringing and wants her to say the pledge with "under God." The justices spent about half of the one-hour argument posing questions about standing and sparring with Dr. Newdow on the subject.

It remained unclear whether Dr. Newdow persuaded them, but he was obviously prepared for the argument. He told the justices, "I am saying I as her father have a right to know that when she goes into the public schools she's not going to be told every morning to stand up, put her hand over her heart, and say your father is wrong, which is what she's told every morning."

"Well, she does have a right not to participate," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor observed.

In 1943, 11 years before Congress added "under God," the court ruled that no one could be compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance. That case was brought by Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religion forbids saluting the flag.

Dr. Newdow said opting out was a "huge imposition to put on a small child."

He continued: "Government is doing this to my child. They're putting her in a milieu where she says, 'Hey, the government is saying that there is a God and my dad says no,' and that's an injury to me."

Dr. Newdow, 50, often spoke very rapidly but never appeared to lose his footing during the 30 minutes the court gave him. He managed a trick that far more experienced lawyers rarely accomplish: to bring the argument to a symmetrical and seemingly unhurried ending just as the red light comes on.

"There's a principle here," he told the justices in his closing moments, "and I'm hoping the court will uphold this principle so that we can finally go back and have every American want to stand up, face the flag, place their hand over their heart and pledge to one nation, indivisible, not divided by religion, with liberty and justice for all."

Copyright ©2004 The New York Times Company,
used under the protection of the Fair Use doctrine.

Quote Graphic Rule

 

Transparent Spacer
Quote Graphic Rule
Transparent Spacer

Graphic Rule