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Atheist Crusader Faces Starr in Legal Fight

Michael Arthur Newdow, the man best known for his crusade to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, has a new adversary: former solicitor general and independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

Starr is leading a team of lawyers representing Sandra Banning, the mother of Newdow’s daughter. The couple, who never married, is in the middle of a custody battle. Banning reportedly is contending that Newdow is a poor father and that he should not be allowed to involve their daughter in his legal battle concerning the pledge. According to an Associated Press report, Newdow, who is also a lawyer and is representing himself, has said that Banning’s filing is packed with “blatant distortions and untruths.”

An atheist and physician living in Sacramento, Newdow sued the school district where his daughter was a second-grader, arguing that her constitutional rights were being violated by hearing the pledge. A federal appeals court agreed, ruling that the pledge should be barred from public schools. Newdow reportedly has also petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a broader ruling removing the words “under God” from the pledge.

In court filings, Starr said that Banning “believes the pledge is an important, patriotic expression of American ideals that reflects the democratic beliefs of a diverse society” and insists that her young daughter has no objections to the pledge.

Newdow currently does not have custody of the girl, raising questions about his standing to bring the original claim against the school district.

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