TCU Daily Skiff Thursday, March 25, 2004
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University reacts to Supreme Court proceedings
TCU students and professors share their views on whether “under God” should be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

By Lori Russell
Staff Reporter

Experts in religion and politics at TCU agree: there needs to be separation between church and state.

“I think there does need to be a separation of church and state, because it has been proven in several cases throughout history that without separation of the church and state the main-line religions begin to suppress the minority religions,” said Vicky Sprinkle, a graduate religion student.

The Supreme Court began hearing testimony Wednesday from Michael Newdow, a 50-year-old atheist from California, who first brought his case against his 9-year-old daughter’s school and won.

In February 2003, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the recitation of the pledge with the words “under God” in public schools violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

“I think this is another example of our society’s struggle to balance respect for religion in society and the individual’s right to choose,” said Robert Thompson, a doctoral student in pastoral theology and pastoral care.

Newdow told the Supreme Court yesterday the words “under God” are unconstitutional and offensive to people who don’t believe there is a God.

The hearings Wednesday morning dealt primarily with Newdow’s standing to sue.
There has been argument over Newdow’s right to bring his case, suggesting the court may rule against him without reaching the church-state issue. Newdow must prove he has standing to sue which is proof of sufficient interest to bring the suit. This is an issue because Newdow does not have custody of his daughter.

Newdow says he has sufficient interest because he is an atheist and his custodial ex-wife is a born-again Christian, said Don Jackson, a political science professor.

“The standing to sue issue is something the court could use to tactically avoid the substantive issue,” Jackson said.

He said it may be weeks before the court makes a decision on the standing to sue issue. If the Supreme Court determines he does not have sufficient interest, it would not have to rule on the pledge issue, Jackson said.

Justice Antonin Scalia removed himself from the case after being quoted by the media criticizing the 9th Circuit decision. This left the nation’s highest court with an even number of Justices, meaning the case could end in a tie vote and no decision.

“Most of us in the field of religion feel this is a pretty clear case,” said Daryl Schmidt, chairman of the religion department. “The government has no business requiring anyone to recite a pledge to God anytime, anywhere under any circumstances.”

“That’s why my ancestors came to this country, to get away from governments controlling religious practice,” Schmidt said.
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