WASHINGTON (ABP) — While the Supreme Court was hearing legal arguments on the Pledge of Allegiance case March 24, hundreds of protestors outside had their own oral arguments. But theirs tended to be more about volume than about legal nuances.
Supporters of keeping the phrase “under God” in the pledge stood alongside another large contingent of people supporting atheist Michael Newdow in his quest to strike those words from the oath.
The demonstrators turned the sidewalk into something of an ideological street festival, complete with bullhorns, banners, whistles and placards. The crowds made their most intense public declarations around 11 a.m., when arguments in the highly divisive case began.
Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, led pledge supporters in prayer for the entire hour the oral arguments took place.
“We're very excited the Christian community is engaged in this debate and not remaining silent,” Mahoney said, as the crowd began to disperse following the arguments. “People were energized, and it was powerful to witness.”
Also powerful to witness was the battle for supremacy between the demonstrators on Mahoney's side and the group, organized by American Atheists, supporting Newdow. Real estate on the crowded sidewalk was a minor point of contention, but the true battle was in the air. With both groups attempting to shout their message to the world — or at least to the seemingly omnipresent television boom mikes — each group attempted to yell, chant and sing louder than the other.
“They tried to shout us down,” Mahoney said of his opponents. “But we made sure we got a louder microphone than they have. He who has the largest public address system wins.”
Meanwhile, many demonstrators strolled about on their own, holding signs and talking to anyone who would listen.
“I'm here because I'm a patriotic American,” said Staks Rosch of Westchester, Pa. “They're trying to make us look unpatriotic and un-American.”
“Look at our Constitution,” Rosch continued. We're not a Christian nation. We're a free nation.”
After the arguments, each side sent up loud cheers as its heroes descended the stairs in front of the court's portico. Chants of “We want Mike” — a reference to Newdow — went up from the American Atheists corner, while preachers led the religious groups in a recitation of the pledge.
As Dianna Jacek of Baltimore, Md. said of the opposing groups offering up their different views: “It's okay. This is part of America. We can all express our beliefs. I'm here to support keeping God in the pledge. And I pray for those over here who are against it.”