Exclusive: Sandra Banning

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 15, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "impact" segment tonight, it was a sad day for the activist judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Also, a sad day for atheist Michael Newdow (search) yesterday, when the Supreme Court (search) threw out the attempt to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.  Newdow used his 10-year old daughter to spearhead the case.

And joining us now from Sacramento is the young girl's mother and Newdow's former partner, Sandra Banning, who has started a group called ForOneNationUnderGod.com.

So your reaction to what happened in the Supreme Court?

SANDRA BANNING, MICHAEL NEWDOW'S FMR. PARTNER:  Well, actually, I'm very pleased with the decision.  I'm really happy.  I understand and I realize that we won on a technicality, but it's a win and we'll take it after two years of being involved in this case, and providing the Ninth Circuit with information along the line of standing -- we actually did, in our motion to intervene, state that Mr. Newdow didn't have standing to represent the child.

O'REILLY:  Yes, why do you think they -- why do you think they said that?  Why do you think the Supreme Court kind of copped out a little bit and said, well, we're not going to rule on it because your former partner doesn't have legal standing to speak for your daughter?  Why do you think they did that?

BANNING:  Well, I think -- you know, of course I'm not an attorney, but it's my understanding that once you enter into the federal court system with this case, he was required to maintain standing throughout from the very beginning of the proceedings, all the way through to the Supreme Court.

And he didn't.  He did lose -- I did have sole legal custody.  He did lose custody of the child.  We now have a rather customized version of joint custody, with myself making final decisions between the two parents.  And he didn't provide that information when he lost standing to the lower court.

And so, I believe that that was the first hurdle that -- the first question that the Supreme Court had to answer.  Did this man have legal standing to represent the child?

O'REILLY:  All right, because...

BANNING:  And before they could go on.

O'REILLY:  Right.  So before...

BANNING:  Yes, before they could go on to the merits.

O'REILLY:  ...right.  And then three justices came flat out and said that the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional.  And we believe that...

BANNING:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ...if it had gone, it would've been ruled that way.  I wish it had, so we get a -- because you know what's going to happen, Ms. Banning?  Some other guy's going to come out of the woodwork and go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The same thing's going to happen again.  But anyway...

BANNING:  Right.  I think that next time, it'll be presented with a much cleaner case and not a custody battle.

O'REILLY:  Right.  And that's true.

But anyway, so they found a little loophole that your former partner didn't really have continuous custody or whatever.  And he couldn't speak for the girl.

Now how old is your daughter now?

BANNING:  She just celebrated her 10th birthday.  And...

O'REILLY:  OK, she's 10 years old now.

BANNING:  Right.

O'REILLY:  I thought she was a little bit older.  So anyway, she wanted all along to say the Pledge of Allegiance the way it is, didn't she?

BANNING:  Right.  She's never had any objection to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, saying the words "under God."  And as I said from the very beginning, we attend church regularly.  You know, we pray at home.  We ask a blessing over dinner.  We say our prayers at night before we go to bed.  So that was -- there was never a question that this child...


O'REILLY:  So your former partner, the girl's father, just used this little girl?

BANNING:  Well, that, you know, that was my interpretation as a mother.  You know, whenever you present information to a court claiming that a child may be harmed, then you're going to gain sympathy from the court.  And they're going to respond in a way that they believe may protect the child.

O'REILLY:  Did your little girl -- daughter get harmed by all of this?

BANNING:  Well, I tell you, she certainly is not harmed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

O'REILLY:  No, no, no, by the whole process and attention and controversy?

BANNING:  You know, she has -- you know, we started this when she was 8 years old.  She's now 10 and she's out of it.  Yesterday when I communicated the news regarding the case, the status of the case, she just gave a sigh of relief.  It's over, oh good.  And she didn't go to school yesterday, because she didn't want the kids to be asking her questions.  And I respected that.  She said, "Mom, I think I would much rather just stay home."

And so, she wanted to avoid being put in any spotlight.  And you know, I respected that.

O'REILLY:  Do you think that any damage has been done because the spotlight has been on her in the past?

BANNING:  We -- you know, we have been very open.  And we talk about this when anything comes up, and what her role as a 10-year old child and earlier as an eight and nine-year old, and that this is a situation -- a case that dad has brought.  And that it doesn't really involve her.  We didn't want to change her life, you know, from the regular routine of things that she should be focusing on.

O'REILLY:  Yes, and kids are real resilient.  So I'm glad to hear that you don't think that she's been damaged in any way.

BANNING:  Right.

O'REILLY:  Some kids -- you know, because of all the attention, might have really gone into themselves.  But I'm glad she's doing well.

Ms. Banning, we really appreciate you coming on and talking to us about the situation.  We're happy it turned out the way it did.  Thank you very much, madam.

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