Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow

542 U.S. 1, 124 S. Ct. 2301 (2004)



The United States Supreme Court's standing jurisprudence contains two strands: Article III standing, which enforces the United States Constitution's case or controversy requirement, and prudential standing, which embodies judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction. The Article III limitations are familiar: The plaintiff must show that the conduct of which he complains has caused him to suffer an "injury in fact" that a favorable judgment will redress.


The father, an atheist, contended that the words "under God" in the Pledge violated the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment and that the school district's recitation policy was unconstitutional. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the father had standing and ruled in favor of the father. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States on certiorari.


Did the father have standing to sue?




The United States Supreme Court determined that the noncustodial father lacked prudential standing to bring the suit in federal court. It was improper for the federal courts to entertain the claim of the father whose standing to sue was founded on family law rights that were in dispute, when prosecution of the lawsuit could have had an adverse effect on the person who was the source of the father's claimed standing. Also, nothing that either the mother or the school district had done impaired the father's right to instruct his daughter in his religious views.

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