Divided appeals court rules Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t violate Constitution

Carol J. Williams
Los Angeles Times

A divided federal appeals court Thursday reversed itself, ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t violate the constitutional prohibition against state-mandated religious exercise even though it contains the phrase “one nation under God.”

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2002, which deemed that requiring students to recite the pledge violated their rights to be free of religious indoctrination by the government, was one of the most controversial to come out of the court that is second only to the U.S. Supreme Court in its power to determine law for nine Western states and two Pacific territories.

The appeals court’s earlier decision had been reviewed by the Supreme Court in 2004, but the justices dodged the constitutional question on procedural grounds, throwing out the lawsuit brought by a Sacramento atheist and leaving intact the wording of the patriotic declaration.

Also decided Thursday was a challenge brought by the same plaintiff, Michael Newdow, to the phrase “In God We Trust” printed on the national money. The same three-judge panel ruled that an earlier case had found the phrase to be a national motto and that its placement on U.S. coins and currency wasn’t required by any government statute.

The Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s 1st Amendment prohibits the enactment of a law or official policy that establishes a religion or religious faith. The 9th Circuit’s earlier ruling that the pledge unconstitutionally included “under God” stirred nationwide controversy and exposed Newdow, a physician and lawyer, to virulent scorn for attacking the religious references.

The article continues at the LA Times

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