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'Pledge' Mom: My Daughter Is No Atheist

Following is the transcript of a Fox News Channel exclusive interview with Sandy Banning, mother of the schoolgirl whose father brought a case to federal court resulting in a ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance in its current form is unconstitutional because it refers to the United States as a nation "under God." 

RITA COSBY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Ms. Banning now joins us live from Washington. Thanks so much for being with us tonight, Sandy. 

SANDY BANNING: Hi, thank you. 

COSBY: Why did you think it was important to speak out now? 

BANNING: Well I'm speaking out because my daughter is being raised in a Christian home. We are not atheists, and I need to communicate to the American people that my daughter's not being harmed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. 

COSBY: Let's walk a little bit, if we could, through your family history — because Michael Newdow is the father of your child but you two were never married, is that right? 

BANNING: That's correct. 

COSBY: And who has sole legal custody of the child? 

BANNING: At this time I have sole legal custody of my daughter. 

COSBY: So do you believe that his case has any merit then? 

BANNING: No, not from my standpoint. I'm speaking as her mother and as a Christian. She's being raised in a Christian home, we pray regularly, we attend church regularly, we — I teach Sunday School, so in that respect, and I know that she certainly hasn't been harmed at all by participating in all of her class activities. 

COSBY: Now is school a major focus of her life too? You and I were talking briefly before this interview and you talked about her love of class and also her love of saying the Pledge of the Allegiance. 

BANNING: Right, well, she's a very active eight-year-old little girl. School is the center of her social life right now. And so she participates in all the activities and when the school doors open, she's ready to be there. She's our little social butterfly. And, she just — she's in a year-round school program, so she just recently, this past week, started third grade and she was excited, she told me the first day of school that she led the class in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

COSBY: So she actually led the class in the Pledge of Allegiance. And how did she feel about that? Was she upset about doing that or honored to do it? 

BANNING: Oh, well she was excited, because her girlfriend, her best friend was the door monitor but she got to lead the pledge, so she had to keep up with her friends, she was fine. 

COSBY: I want to clarify something because you know, the perception out there is because Michael Newdow has come out — the father of your daughter — and said basically that he's an atheist based on his views, and so now the perception is that you and your daughter are atheists. Do you both believe in God? 

BANNING: Oh, yes, we are practicing Christians, and that's one of the things that I wanted to clarify, based on the statements in the record, that was the whole goal here was to correct the record, to say that no, we are not atheists, we are practicing Christians, and we love the Lord. We attend church regularly and enjoy it. 

COSBY: Do you believe that the belief in God is something that our country is founded on — a god, whatever god it is? 

BANNING: Oh, absolutely, I think our American history is founded on the belief of God and again, as I say, I speak from a Christian point of view but I think one the great things about our nation is that we respect all faiths and I think that as a nation overall, that's one of the things that make us great is that we respect each individual's faith. 

COSBY: And that's what I want to ask you — in your opinion, by forcing or by asking students to use the phrase "under God," in the classroom, do you think you're imposing a religion? What in your opinion is that doing? 

BANNING: Well, children aren't forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance but having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance I think, is not a matter of conflict for children. 

COSBY: Do you think it's imposing religion, or do you think it's something that's inclusive, bringing in several different religions, whatever they are? 

BANNING: I think it is inclusive, right. 

COSBY: How so? 

BANNING: She assoc— ... associates it to her Christianity ... um ... and ... uh ... her Christian upbringing, but I would imagine, I can't speak for other faiths ... faiths, but I would imagine that people would, when they say "under God", their children say "under God" that it would be representative of ... of possibly um ... um a Muslim child or possibly um, a Hindu child. 

COSBY: Were you surprised when you found out that your daughter's father filed this suit? 

BANNING: Well, I ... I was a little bit surprised but actually I didn't give the case any merit. When it was initially uh ... uh thrown out in the lower courts, I thought, well yeah, I expected it to be thrown out in the lower courts ... So that it even, you know, got this far, I was very shocked ... I ... just totally surprised. 

COSBY: Now he was originally going to file it in, in another state, is that right, and why? 

BANNING: Well ... I'm not real sure. He originally had wanted to file the case in Florida. What his reasons were, I'm not real sure about that ... um ... but ... uh, my daughter is enrolled in school in ... uh ... California and so therefore it had to be moved ... um there. 

COSBY: Now, did you know at the time that he had such passionate such — and some are calling it — such extremist views? 

BANNING: No, I didn't know — I didn't understand or have this feeling that it was really extreme; I didn't sense this passion when we were friends, and we were together. I've always known that he has a great interest in constitutional law — but not that it went this far. 

COSBY: Now did he check with you or your daughter before he filed this suit? Did he give you any warning or ask for your opinion? 

BANNING: No, uh-unh. 

COSBY: What would you have said if he did? 

BANNING: Well, I knew that he was going to file it, but he certainly didn't ask my opinion? 

COSBY: Were you upset that he didn't ask you, don't you think as being the mother of the same child, that he should have asked you? 

BANNING: Well, I think out of courtesy that would have been a nice thing to do. 

COSBY: And what was your reaction when you found out he was going to do it? What did you tell him? 

BANNING: We were actually involved in court matters at the time so, um, I don't recall that I did tell him anything specific, but I didn't support it. You know, this was a Michael Newdow issue and I really didn't expect it to ever go this far, so I just thought, "Oh you know, he's going to do his thing, and it's just going to blow over," and um, but it didn't. It's here today. 

COSBY: What do you think motivated him to file this suit then? 

BANNING: I — I'm not for sure what his motivation was, I know that he's always had a strong interest in constitutional law, and um, I know that he's always had a desire to — to — he's always enjoyed controversy and so it, being involved in something like this, it really doesn't surprise me too much. 

COSBY: Do you think his motivation was to bring, then, the case to the Supreme Court, rather than the interest of your mutual child? 

BANNING: I think that it's, personally I think it's pursuing his own interest. But having a child in public school provided him an avenue to do so. 

COSBY: Were you offended, because obviously many people are saying this case certainly brought so much attention to your family, particularly your child, putting your child, putting her in the spotlight, somewhat making her a spectacle, some might say, does that offend you, that he's done this? 

BANNING: Well, a little bit. But most importantly our goal here is just to correct the record, the American people, the President needs to know this child is not an atheist, um, before this case goes down in history we need to correct the record here. And so, and make sure my daughter is represented correctly. 

COSBY: And just one quick question before we go to the break, Sandy — there's some interesting stuff that has never been reported before, about Michael Newdow's background, his religious background. Tell me about his family — because his family, they're not atheists, right? 

BANNING: It's my understanding that his parents are atheists but he — he was raised — a Jewish background, Glen [their daughter] and he celebrate Hannukah and Passover together. 

COSBY: So he and your daughter celebrate Passover? 

BANNING: Correct. 

COSBY: And he doesn't oppose that? 

BANNING: No, he doesn't. And she celebrates the traditional Jewish holidays with him. 

COSBY: So how can he reconcile that — if he can say it's okay to celebrate Passover, but then saying your daughter can't say "under God?" 

BANNING: Well, I'm not really sure how he reconciles that. I — you know, there's lots of folks that you know, participate in Christmas but that doesn't make them a Christian, that doesn't exclude the children from participating in a very you know ... it's actually a very religious holiday, but maybe it's not religious in their home. 

COSBY: Do you feel he's being somewhat contradictory though, and some would say that? 

BANNING: Possibly. But I think that it's important that my daughter learn about her family heritage and she needs to know about her family history, it's very important. 

COSBY: Sandy Banning, please stay with us, we're just going to take a short break and we'll have more with you after this commercial break. An incredible story, told for the first time, this is the mother of the little girl at the center of the storm — her father just recently won that case making the Pledge of the Allegiance unconstitutional. We'll have her first-ever exclusive interview and continue with her right after this break. 

[BREAK] 

COSBY: Sandy um ... what was your reaction when you heard Michael Newdow won this case? 

BANNING: Oh ... I was shocked, I was actually ... my sister had left a voicemail for me to call her as soon as she got ... as I returned from lunch and I checked uh ... the television and I was ... I just stood there with my mouth open and thought, "Oh my gosh, the President of the United States thinks my child's an atheist." Um, and I, you know ... you're watching the ... um ... Congress on the steps, you know, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and I was just — I was just so surprised, very shocked. 

COSBY: Now what was your daughter's reaction? 

BANNING: Well, she spoke with her father on the phone and she actually was just really pretty brief about it but uh ... he told her that uh ... he ... uh had won the uh ... following morning uh ... she did watch her father on TV, just one segment and she um ... said, you know, "This is going to change the Pledge of Allegiance." And I tried to communicate to her, you know, in a way that she would understand that there were many steps that we'd all have to go through, legal process, before, you know the pledge would be changed. And she said, "Oh, it's OK ... um, um Mom ... I'm still going to say, 'one nation under God' even um, I'll say it quietly so no one will know I'm breaking the law." So she ... I don't think that she knows the, uh, real impact [inaudible] ... I don't believe she knows about it at all ... .really what's going on in the media ... I've kept her out of the media, she saw her father that one time on TV, and other than that um, she hasn't been exposed to it. 

COSBY: Now Michael Newdow said that that his daughter — your daughter — is, is being harmed, in fact part of his standing for the legal case is to show that there is an injured party. Do you think your daughter is being harmed in any way by having to say this phrase? 

BANNING: She's not harmed in any way. She's no ... so I, I can't speak on the legal ... um, end of this, that's not something I know about. 

COSBY: What about in your own personal opinion? 

BANNING: Uh ... is whether she's harmed? She's certainly not being harmed in any way, she hasn't been harmed at all ... so in that respect ... in my personal opinion, I have no legal background, but in that avenue I don't think that standing exists regarding harm. 

COSBY: You don't believe ... Do you believe he has a legitimate case? It seems ... you're saying there doesn't appear to be any harm to your child, and you have sole legal custody of your child. Correct? 

BANNING: Correct. 

COSBY: Do you believe he has a legitimate case then? 

BANNING: If the whole case was centered around harm, I would say, "no," but I don't know the full legal ramifications of the case, you know — you would have to speak with legal counsel regarding that. 

COSBY: Now are you hoping the courts will reverse the decision now? 

BANNING: Oh, absolutely. 

COSBY: And are you going to do any filings? I understand you may be doing an amicus brief on July 29th, is that correct? 

BANNING: Well, you'll have to speak with our, um ... um attorney regarding all the legal plans, but I know that Mr. Sullivan has set into motion the appropriate legal action. 

COSBY: And that's your attorney. I understand he's going to file a brief along with some other people but he's going to file a brief at the end of this month, is that correct? 

BANNING: On our behalf, yes. 

COSBY: Okay. Tell me, what message would you want to send to Michael Newdow, the father of your child, and to other people out there? 

BANNING: Well, I just want the record to be corrected and let the American people know and reaffirm with Mr. Newdow that Glen is being raised in a Christian home and that we are not atheists and we love the Lord and he's very important to us and he comes first in our life and in our home and I hope that we can represent him as Christians. 

COSBY: And I understand that since this decision has come down you've been flooded with people wishing you support? 

BANNING: It ... uh ... it actually brings tears to my eyes ... we've received so many e-mails of support, people sending their heartfelt concern and they're praying for us, you know, lifting us up ... it's just been wonderful. I can't express how much it means to us. 

COSBY: Are you surprised at the outpouring of support for you? 

BANNING: Yes, I was so shocked ... I ... I was reading through these e-mails and I thought, "Oh my goodness." I had no idea that we would receive that type of response ... I'm just overwhelmed. 

COSBY: Real briefly, I understand that a Web site has been set up to help you give some funds because obviously legal steps cost a lot of money. 

BANNING: Right ... and that's correct. This is a very involved legal process but it also provides the American people of an avenue to keep in touch, to see how things are progressing, and that type of thing, and so it's a good source of information. 

COSBY: Sandy Banning, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.