updated 8/6/2004 3:52:13 PM ET 2004-08-06T19:52:13

The director of religious outreach for the Democratic Party says she resigned this week because of criticism over her support for removing the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

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The Democratic National Committee is seeking a replacement for the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, who resigned Wednesday after serving less than two weeks in the newly created position. DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said the party had nothing more to add to her resignation statement.

The Catholic League, a conservative anti-defamation group based in New York, criticized the political views of Peterson, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in three statements issued over the first three days of the week.

On Wednesday, Peterson resigned and cited “recent negative publicity” from the amicus brief in the pledge case that she and 31 other members of the clergy signed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that atheist Michael Newdow did not have standing to bring a lawsuit on his daughter’s behalf challenging the words “under God” in the pledge. The decision overturned a federal appeals court’s ruling in 2002 that the pledge was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion when recited in public schools.

“I feel it is no longer possible for me to do my job effectively. I do not want my support of this case to serve as a distraction or ammunition for Republicans and their allies,” Peterson said in a statement.

“I continue to believe, as do leading faith leaders across this country, that John Kerry should be the next president of the United States and that John Kerry’s values of opportunity, family and responsibility are America’s values,” she said.

“We agree with what she wrote,” Cabrera said Friday. “We defer to her. We don’t have anything to add to the statement beyond what she has already said.”

The 350,000-member Catholic League called Peterson a “left-wing activist” and criticized her for signing the brief in the pledge case and for her role in the Clergy Leadership Network, a coalition of anti-Bush religious liberals she served as executive director.

The DNC hired Peterson July 23. The following week, she hosted a luncheon for “People of Faith for Kerry” during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The resignation was first reported by the Religion News Service.

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