Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow
United States Supreme Court
542 U.S. 1 (2004)
Michael Newdow’s (plaintiff) daughter attended a public school in the Elk Grove Unified School District in California (defendant). Each day, teachers at the school led the students in a voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which included the words “under God.” Michael Newdow, an atheist, brought suit in federal district court in California arguing that Elk Grove’s act of making the students listen—even if they chose not to participate—to the words “under God” each day violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The case was referred to a Magistrate Judge, who concluded that “the Pledge does not violate the Establishment Clause.” The district court adopted that recommendation and dismissed the complaint. Newdow appealed and Sandra Banning, the mother of his daughter, filed a motion to have her daughter dismissed as a party to the lawsuit on the grounds that (1) a state-court order granted her "exclusive legal custody" of her daughter and (2) her daughter did not personally object to saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered Newdow’s case in light of Banning’s motion and reversed, holding that the grant of sole legal custody to Banning did not deprive Newdow of his standing to challenge the school’s policy and that, under California law, Newdow had the right to expose his child to his particular religious views, even if those views contradicted the mother's. The court of appeals also held that the school’s policy, as well as the Congressional Act in 1954 which first added the words “under God” to the Constitution both violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the standing and First Amendment issues.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)
Concurrence (Rehnquist, C.J.)
Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)
Concurrence (Thomas, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 725,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Berkeley, and Northwestern—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students.Unlock this case briefRead our student testimonials
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students.Learn about our approachRead more about Quimbee
Here's why 725,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 45,600 briefs, keyed to 983 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.