updated 6/15/2004 11:21:02 AM ET 2004-06-15T15:21:02

My Mom told me long ago to never discuss religion or politics in public. It just makes people angry.  Well, that went out the window a long time ago.

Our number one story Monday, The Supreme Court ruled today on the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The court ruled in de facto fashion in favor of retaining the phrase “one nation under God” in the pledge, at least for the time being, not on its merits, not even on the cleverness of the lawyers on either side of the case, but rather based on its doubts that the father of the little girl has the right to sue on her behalf. 

Michael Newdow is in a protracted custody battle with the girl's mother.  And the court ruled that he doesn't have sufficient custody to qualify as her legal representative.  So, lower court rulings in favor of Newdow are reversed by 8-0, with Antonin Scalia abstaining.  Newdow, in disbelief, points out that his daughter spends 10 months a year with him.  And it's just a coincidence that all this happens 50 years to the day that Congress inserted the words “under God” into the pledge in the first place. 

And then there is the potential court case that could make the California recall from last year look like an informal show of hands at a PTA meeting.  How about a name-that-city contest for communities currently known as Los Angeles and San Francisco and San Diego? 

The issue was raised in a newspaper, “The Daily News,” which serves part of the city that is officially still known by its original Mexican mission name, “the Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion.”

Constitutional law experts say that a strong legal argument can be made that just the name, Los Angeles, “The Angels,” violates by itself the separation of church and state.  Fortunately, one of them quoted by the newspaper, Joerg Knipprath, from Southwestern University Law School, says an actual lawsuit to change the city's name is “farfetched at this point.  I don't think it is going to happen in the next 10 years.”

Unfortunately, he points out that 20 years ago, nobody thought the county of Los Angeles would have to go along with the ACLU's request to remove the tiny Christian cross from its official county seal. 

However, this doesn't just apply to Los Angeles.  Think of all the "Santas":  Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe! And the "Sans" too: Francisco, Diego, Antonio could be in trouble as well.

And why stop there?  What about Nazareth and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Heavenly Branch, Texas; Heaven Heights, Massachusetts; Hell's Gate and Hell's Half Acre in Texas; and, of course, Hell, Michigan?

This was the No. 1 story on Monday's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." The show airs weeknights, 8 p.m. ET


Discussion comments