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Pledge is constitutional, federal court rules
Adelle M. Bank, Religion News Service
March 15, 2010
2 MIN READ TIME

Pledge is constitutional, federal court rules

Pledge is constitutional, federal court rules
Adelle M. Bank, Religion News Service
March 15, 2010

The Pledge of Allegiance,

with its inclusion of the words “under God,” is constitutional, a federal

appeals court ruled March 11, reversing a previous ruling.

The 2-1 ruling answers a

challenge by California atheist Michael Newdow, who argued that the use of the

pledge in a Northern California school district — where children of atheists

had to listen to others recite it— violated the First Amendment’s clause prohibiting

the establishment of religion.

The “students are being

coerced to participate in a patriotic exercise, not a religious exercise,” the

9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. “The Pledge is not a prayer

and its recitation is not a religious exercise.”

In 2002, the 9th Circuit

Court ruled that the use of the words “under God” in the pledge violated the

Constitution. The current court called that decision “erroneous.” The Supreme

Court later dismissed the earlier Newdow suit, sidestepping the church-state

issues by finding he did not have standing to sue.

“The 9th Circuit today

failed to uphold the basic principle found within the first ten words of the

Bill of Rights … that the government is required to show equal respect to the

lawful religious views of all individuals,” Newdow said.

Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson,

founder and president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued for

the school district, said the court “finally stood up” for the Pledge of

Allegiance.

In a scathing and lengthy dissent,

Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the words “under God” have an “undeniably

religious purpose” and “we have failed in our constitutional duty as a court.”

In a separate decision, also

issued March 11, the 9th Circuit dismissed Newdow’s challenge to the words “In

God We Trust” on U.S. currency.