Federal Appeals Court Upholds "Under God" In Pledge

SAN FRANCISCO — An appellate court has upheld references to God on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance, rejecting arguments they violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

"The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling Thursday.

Bea noted that schools do not require students to recite the pledge, which was amended to include the words "under God" by a 1954 federal law. Members of Congress at the time said they wanted to set the United States apart from "godless communists."

In a separate 3-0 ruling, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency, citing an earlier 9th Circuit panel that ruled the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic and "has nothing whatsover to do with the establishment of religion."

The same appeals court caused a national uproar and prompted accusations of judicial activism when it decided in Sacramento athiest Michael Newdow's favor in 2002, ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

President George W. Bush called the 2002 decision "ridiculous," senators passed a resolution condemning the ruling and Newdow received death threats.

That lawsuit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, but the high court said Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the suit because he didn't have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case.

So Newdow filed an identical challenge on behalf of other parents who objected to the recitation of the pledge at school. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Newdow's favor, prompting the appeals court to take up the case again.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who was part of the three-judge panel that ruled in Newdow's favor eight years ago, wrote a 123-page dissent to the 60-page majority opinion.

"Under no sound legal analysis adhering to binding Supreme Court precedent could this court uphold state-directed, teacher-led, daily recitation of the 'under God' version of the Pledge of Allegiance by children in public schools," wrote Reinhardt, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Newdow, a doctor and attorney who founded a group called the First Atheist Church of True Science, told The Associated Press he would ask the appeals court to rehear the case. If it rejects that request, Newdow said he'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The whole argument that 'under God' wasn't placed into the pledge for religious purposes is bogus," Newdow said. "I hope people recognize this is not against God or people who believe in God. It's about the government not treating people equally on the basis of their lawful religious views."

Rory Little, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said the Supreme Court is unlikely to review the case because Thursday's ruling is the third appellate court decision upholding the pledge.

In addition, Congress passed legislation reaffirming the pledge in 2002, following the 9th Circuit's ruling that struck it down.

"I think this is the last word on this particular lawsuit," Little said. "It's an important ruling."

Greg Katsas, who argued the currency case on behalf of the U.S. government when the appellate court heard the case in December 2007, said the panel made the right decision Thursday.

"I think these two phrases encapsulate the philosophy on which the nation was founded," said Katsas, who now works in private practice. "There is a religious aspect to saying "One nation under God," but it isn't like a prayer. When someone says the pledge, they're not praying to God, they're pledging allegiance to the country, the flag and the ideals of the country."


I just can't comprehend how someone can read the Constitution and then say that the use of the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional. It shouldn't even be just atheists who are against the use of "Under God". Anyone who supports the Constitution should be against the use of "Under God". Even my mother, who is a christian, says that it's unconsitutional. The use of the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance simply is not constitutional.

Views: 57

Comment by Robert Ferentz on March 13, 2010 at 2:53am
Once again, logic loses in the face of religion and nationalism. Sad, but not surprising.
Comment by Robert Ferentz on March 13, 2010 at 6:27am
It used to be "e pluribus onum" (sp?) which means "Out of many, one" which is a beautiful unifying concept.
Comment by Velogiraptor on March 13, 2010 at 2:09pm
Another interesting side note, "e pluribus unum" actually refers to the publishing process and was the term for the binding of a book or manuscript. From the many pages, they would produce a single work, "e plurubus unum".
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is only willful ignorance that fuels court rulings that uphold "Under God" in the pledge and "In God We Trust" on currency. I'll take from the majority opinion the truly telling sentance. The judge points out that children are not required to recite the pledge, justifying the ruling that Under God is acceptable. But wait, if the reason they don't have to recite it is because of "Under God" and that it directly conflicts with their religious views or lack thereof, then it is a blatantly religious statement and is therefor an establishment of monotheism. Atheists should not be the only people who are angry with this ruling. Polytheists, Taoists, Buddhists, Trascendentalists etc should be equally outraged. Clearly this is a government establishment of montheism, accented with capital "G" god, implying that it is the majority religion's god. (In this case Christianity)
The judge also says that it's a unifying phrase. Once again, willful ignorance steps in. This judge has apparently forgotten that he's hearing a case on behalf of a sizable segment of the population that is segregated by the use of the phrases in question. He also mentions that it reflects the founding fathers' wishes and designs for this country. I guess that's why it wasn't added until the 1950s... willful ignorance. It must be willful, because you don't become a judge by being stupid. That means these people have the mental capacity to understand the holes in their logic.
The Supreme Court has ruled on this in the past as well. They've said that "In God We Trust" has no religious meaning due to wrote repetition. I would ask: How many copies of the bible need to be printed before it has no religious meaning through wrote repetition?
Comment by Eric Steiger on March 13, 2010 at 6:35pm
I guess we can add this to the growing mountain of evidence illustrating the complete disregard for the Constitution on the part of government powerbrokers.


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