Atheist pledges to keep fighting government

Seeing the phrase “In God We Trust” on his money and knowing schoolchildren say “one nation under God” has Mike Newdow singing the “Pledge of Allegiance Blues.”

Strumming a guitar in front of about 50 people Tuesday night at Kansas University, the man who mounted a Supreme Court challenge against the Pledge of Allegiance explained in song and lecture how he believes religion has encroached on government.

“It’s called religious freedom,” goes one line in Newdow’s song. “As long as it’s God you choose.”

Newdow lost a case before the Supreme Court on a technicality in 2004, a lawsuit in which he asserted that having public schoolchildren recite “under God” in the pledge infringed on the separation of church and state.

He’s trying to bring that case back before the Supreme Court, along with another case that would challenge the constitutionality of having “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency.

“Everyone knows it’s religious,” Newdow said. “Why did everyone get bent out of shape when it went to the Supreme Court? Because it’s religious.”

Both those cases are held up in appeals courts, although Newdow isn’t optimistic they’ll find their way to the Supreme Court.

Newdow raised the issue Tuesday of whether the architects of the Constitution ever wanted religion and government to mix, as he said supporters of blending church and state sometimes claim.

His main point: The first law that Congress passed was the 1789 Oath Act, which had public officials take an oath of office that did not include any reference to God.

“So when people say they wanted God in government, (Congress) took it out,” he said.

Newdow went on to claim that George Washington never added the phrase “so help me God” in his oath of presidency in 1789, despite the common thought that he did.

Newdow said no record of Washington saying the phrase came up until 1854 when essayist Washington Irving claimed the utterance.

Newdow’s speech was sponsored by KU’s Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics.

An ordained minister of the First Amendmist Church of True Science, a church that denies the existence of God, Newdow said he isn’t trying to get people to abandon their religion.

“This has nothing to do with belief in God,” he said. “It has to do with a belief in equality.”