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Pledge foe insists his daughter backs him

SAN FRANCISCO -- The dad who won a court decision striking down the Pledge of Allegiance because it refers to God said in court papers filed Friday that his daughter supports his position and was not -- as her mother claims -- offended by the ruling.

"I will state that my daughter has in the past volunteered that she does not believe in God. Additionally on July 19, 2002, I overheard my child speaking to her best friend, (saying), 'I hope he wins. That's what the Constitution says,' " Michael Newdow said in a declaration filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That court struck down the pledge last June but stayed the decision one day later in response to a firestorm of protest. Motions to rehear the case now are pending, along with a motion by Sandra Banning, the mother of the Elk Grove third-grader, to dismiss it or dismiss the child from it to protect her.

Banning, who never was married to Newdow and has sole custody of their daughter, said earlier in her own declaration that the 8-year-old is a churchgoing Christian who is harmed by being known as "the atheist child who hated the Pledge."

Newdow retorted that the reason the girl is known at all is Banning's well-publicized campaign to intervene. She does not use his last name.

Newdow also said Banning knew about the case for years and waited too long to become involved.

He disclosed in his declaration that a Sacramento County family court judge this week ordered him not to include the child as an unnamed plaintiff, but did not preclude him from pursuing the case to protect her interests. The order could not immediately be confirmed, and its significance to the future of the litigation was unclear.

The 9th Circuit has no deadline to decide Banning's motion or to chart the future of the case.

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The Bee's Claire Cooper can be reached at (415) 551-7701 or