"Author Unknown" once asked Jesus why there was only one set of footprints in the sand during life's most perilous moments.

Now a federal court on Long Island is trying to decide just whose footprints were next to Jesus' during the better times.

Basil Zangare of Shirley, New York, claims they belonged to his late mother, Mary Stevenson, and that she's the "author unknown" whose "Footprints in the Sand" poem is depicted on countless posters, coffee mugs, and pocket cards.

Zangare filed suit on May 12 in federal court, claiming his mother penned the famous words in the 1930s and registered them with the U.S. Copyright Office in 1984.

"My client wants to preserve for all time the knowledge in the public that his mother wrote this poem," said Zangare's lawyer, Richard Bartel, who is based in Remsenburg, New York.

Not so fast, says the lawyer for Canadian traveling evangelist Margaret Fishback Powers, one of the women named in Zangare's suit.

"In a nutshell, it's baseless," said Powers's San Francisco attorney, John A. Hughes.

Hughes said Zangare waited too long to sue and, besides, the registration of a copyright doesn't prove absolute authorship. Powers, who lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia, is the only one with a registered trademark for "Footprints" and "Footprints in the Sand," he said.

"She wrote it at Thanksgiving in Canada at a religious retreat in 1964," said Hughes of Powers, who has numerous "Footprints" products on the market.

He hopes the case will be dismissed before "witnesses of an event that happened in rural Canada in 1964" have to be tracked down.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Joyce Carty, the other woman named in Zangare's suit, said she has not yet been served with the suit.

"I am devastated at any remarks that have been made ...

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