- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

They came from all over — California, Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere — united in their concern for the case before the Supreme Court, but divided over the words “under God.”

As the justices heard the landmark lawsuit over the Pledge of Allegiance yesterday, proponents and critics squared off outside the court, engaging in shouting matches, singing patriotic songs and waving signs.

About 200 people were waiting in line at 8 a.m., hoping for a ticket to hear the case. Dozens had camped out overnight in chilly 40-degree weather, bundled in blankets and several layers of clothing.

Lauren Dawson, the first person in line, had arrived for her spot Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m pretty excited. I thought it was going to be an important case,” said Miss Dawson, a junior at George Washington University.

She spent the night with a group of nine other students, who were split down the middle about whether the Pledge violates the separation of church and state.

A handful of students from American University also slept at the foot of the court’s steps and skipped their first class of the day — with their teacher’s permission, they said.

They had four cheese pizzas delivered after midnight, an experience one said was surreal.

“I just wanted to have a story to tell my grandkids,” said junior Aron Wolgel.

About 100 supporters began the day near the steps of the court with their hands on their hearts, reciting the Pledge and emphasizing the words “under God.”

“After today, this court will decide whether America remains one nation under God or whether we shake a fist in God’s face,” the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, told a crowd of people carrying signs that read, “I support the Pledge.”

The gathering in support of Michael Newdow, the California atheist who sued over the Pledge, was smaller but no less passionate.

A father from Camp Hill, Penn., held a sign that read, “Mike Newdow, American hero.” Carl Silverman said his wife is a Christian and he is an atheist, and he doesn’t want public school teachers siding with one parent over the other.

“Teachers should stay out of it, and stick to reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said.

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