- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Capitol Hill lawmakers yesterday defended their House and Senate chaplains against a lawsuit to have them fired, filed by the same California atheist who is challenging the word "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It's a ridiculous lawsuit," said Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and assistant minority leader.
Michael Newdow filed the suit in Washington U.S. District Court last week challenging the taxpayer salaries to the Rev. Daniel Coughlin in the House, and the Rev. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie in the Senate. Father Coughlin earns $148,000 a year and Mr. Ogilvie makes $130,000.
Mr. Newdow won a case last June in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to strike the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, but the judges later put their decision on hold.
Mr. Newdow wants both chaplain positions abolished. "It's wrong for government to be saying that there's a God," Mr. Newdow said.
Chaplains have led the morning prayer and ministered to members of Congress since 1789.
"I'm very concerned that that would be suggested," said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and Senate minority leader.
"I believe the people are happy that we have participation of a chaplain. I think we are justified under the Constitution, and we have historically had chaplains, and I certainly would oppose any effort to change that," Mr. Lott said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member, said it is unlikely the suit will hold up in court.
"This is just one of many challenges we've had over the years," Mr. Sessions said.
Mr. Newdow said he filed the suit to remove God from the pledge because it offended his 8-year-old daughter. His ex-wife later revealed she and the girl were Christians and pleaded with him not to file the case. Mr. Newdow also wants to remove "In God We Trust" from currency.
"[Mr. Newdow] is trying to get attention and is just enjoying his moment in the sun," Mr. Sessions said.


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