|Pledge of Allegiance Declared Unconstitutional|
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional under the First Amendment due to its inclusion of the phrase "under God."
Finding the phrase violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment's separation of church and state guarantee, the court overturned a 1954 Act of Congress that added the words to the Pledge.
The words "under God" were added by Congress in 1954, at the direction of President Eisenhower, who stated at the time, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."
The establishment clause reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
In its 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel wrote, "The recitation that ours is a nation 'under God' is not a mere acknowledgement that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase 'one nation under God' in the context of the pledge is normative," the court said in its decision.
"To recite the pledge is not to describe the United States; instead it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice and -- since 1954 -- monotheism," the court continued. "A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical ... to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god.'"
In the lone dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez wrote, "My reading of the stelliscript suggests that upon Newdow's theory of our Constitution, accepted by my colleagues today, we will soon find ourselves prohibited from using our album of patriotic songs in many public settings. 'God Bless America' and 'America the Beautiful' will be gone for sure, and while use of the first and second stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner will still be permissible, we will be precluded from straying into the third. And currency beware!"
The original case was filed by the father of a school girl and challenged the right of a school district to require students to recite the Pledge. The case was dismissal by a lower court and appealed to the 9th Circuit.
Today's decision will probably next be appealed to the full nine-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and from there, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to an Associated Press report, the ruling -- should it stand -- would prohibit schools in at least the nine Western states under the court's jurisdiction from requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Congress, President React
Soon after the court's ruling was announced, both members of Congress and the White House denounced the decision.
Of the ruling, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott said, "Either it has got to be overturned en banc by the 9th Circuit or by a higher court or we will do it in the Congress. I think it is essential that this matter be addressed and be addressed quickly."
Lott was joined by Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle. "I think we need to send a clear message that the Congress disagrees," he said.
White House spokesman Ari Fliescher, in a brief press conference stated, "The president's reaction was: 'This is ridiculous'. Those were his words."