Michael Newdow (24 June 1953 - )
Newdow is a Sacramento, California, attorney and physician. He received his B.S. in 1974 (Brown University, biology), his M.D. at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1978, and his J.D. at the University of Michigan in 1988.
An ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, he is an atheist. The church offers membership for anyone who believes in freedom of religion, a freedom without interference from the government, church agencies, or other outside agencies. Its one creed or doctrine is "Do only that which is right." All four of the musical group, The Beatles, were members. Some cities and states do not recognize the church on the basis of its lacking a building or having no congregation or having invalid odinations that were internet-based, etc.
Newdow is most famous for a lawsuit filed on behalf of his daughter against inclusion of the words "under God" in public schools' recitals of the United States Pledge of Allegiance. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the phrase constitutes an endorsement of religion, and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, the decision was later overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court on procedural grounds, citing that Newdow did not have custody of his daughter and therefore did not have the right to bring suit on her behalf. Newdow has once again filed suit regarding the same issue, but this time on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Citing the precedent set by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the course of Newdow's previous suit, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
In November of 2005, Newdow announced he wants to have "In God We Trust" removed from U.S. money. In a November 14, 2005, interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, Newdow compared "In God We Trust" being on U.S. Currency with segregation (specifically separate drinking fountains), saying, "How can you not compare those? What is the difference there? Both of them [whites and blacks] got equal water. They both had access. It was government saying that it's okay to separate out these two people on the basis of race. Here we're saying it's okay to separate two people on the basis of their religious beliefs." In June of 2006, a federal judge rejected this lawsuit, on the grounds that the minted words amount to a secular national slogan, and they do not dictate anyone's beliefs. Newdow stated that he would appeal the ruling.
In a 2006 interview on the day that the House of Representatives passed the Pledge Protection Act, Newdow told WERS-FM's David Goodman, "A few hours ago, the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America voted 260 to 167 to completely gut the Constitution of its separation of powers and violate numerous other clauses because they thought it was important enough to keep 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think people would've done that for our political heritage or anything else. They did it because they want God in their government because it stands for a religious view that they adhere to, and they want to see that religious view espoused by government, which is exactly what the establishment clause forbids."
In 2002, Newdow received the Freethinker of the Year Award by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in recognition of his being a defender of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.