By John Connolly

SAN FRANCISCO, December 5, 2007 ( – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco began hearings today in two cases over the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the motto “In God We Trust” on money.

Michael Newdow, a professed atheist whose views have been endorsed by the Ninth Circuit Court before, filed both suits on the grounds that each use of the word ‘God’ is an unconstitutional establishment of a national religion.

“This is not a case of people who believe in God vs. people who don’t believe in God,” Newdow said in court. “It’s a case about treating people equally.”

In 2005, Newdow won a similar case in Sacramento which barred schoolchildren from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom and parental rights, is taking an active role in the battle over the right for Americans to say the word ‘God.’ PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider has joined lawyers for the Department of Justice to defend the national motto.

“The national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ is a perfectly permissible, commemorative acknowledgment of our nation’s history and traditions,” said Snider. “Without coercing anyone to adopt any religious viewpoint, it reminds us that our rights are a gift from God and are not at the discretion of the government.”

The judges appear to be split on the issue, and have given little indication of the court’s ruling. No ruling is expected for the next several months.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Feds Erase “In God We Trust” From Face of Coins – Tiny Scratches on Edge Don’t Cut It

California College Bans Pledge of Allegiance After Atheist Complains

U.S. House Votes to Protect Pledge of Allegiance from Courts