Susan Bloch, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University, said the Pledge of Allegiance is a hot-button issue.

"The justices are very well prepared even for the most boring cases. They will be especially prepared for this one," Bloch said.

The superintendent of the school system near Sacramento said it's not a popularity contest. He called it a "common sense issue."

Custody Dispute May Lead To Dismissal Of Challenge

Wednesay's challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance might never have reached the U.S. Supreme Court except for a collision of faith between two parents.

The girl's mother, Sandra Banning, is a born-again Christian locked in a bitter custody dispute with Newdow, whom she never married. Backed by former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, she has told the justices that her daughter has no objection to reciting "under God" in school each day.

Should the justices wish to sidestep the church-state issues, the parents' custody quarrel offers them an easy out. They may just decide that Newdow, because he did not have custody at the time, could not sue without the mother's consent, and dismiss the case outright.

Pledge Supporters Gather Outside Court The Pledge of Allegiance was being recited outside the Supreme Court Wednesday -- as the justices prepared to decide whether the pledge will remain intact.

Supporters of the pledge have been emphasizing the words "under God" as they recite the pledge outside the court.

The Rev. Rob Schenck -- who heads the National Clergy Council -- told a crowd of about 40 people that the court will decide "whether America remains one nation under God or whether we shake a fist in God's face."

Dozens of people camped outside the court on a cold night, to be among the first in line to hear the arguments.

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