|Congress Confirms 'God' in Pledge, Motto|
By a vote of 401-5, the House of Representatives on Oct. 8, 2002 completed Congressional approval of a bill reaffirming the reference to "one Nation under God" as an official part of the Pledge of Allegiance. So continues the latest chapter in the ongoing constitutional saga of separating church and state. Does God belong in American government or not?
Circuit Court Ruling Prompts Congress to Act
Congress passed the bill, S. 2690, in direct response to a June 9, 2002 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Newdow v. U.S. Congress, in which the court held that the Pledge of Allegiance's use of the reference "under God" was unconstitutional according to the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. [See: Pledge of Allegiance Held Unconstitutional]
"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 wrote in its decision.
The case, filed by the father of a Northern California school girl, challenged the right of a public school district to require students to recite the Pledge.
The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Congress notes in the bill S. 2690 that under what it called the "erroneous rationale of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals," the inclusion of the phrase "Year of our Lord" in Article VII would render the entire Constitution itself unconstitutional.
On June 10, 2002, Judge Alfred Goodwin of the of the same 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a stay preventing enforcement of the June 9 ruling in California schools.
Reaffirming God in the Pledge of Allegiance
The bill, passed 99-0 by the Senate in June, reaffirms the effect of a 1954 act of Congress which originally inserted the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance.
The bill formalizes congressional recognition of the official wording of the Pledge of Allegiance as being:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The bill also modifies the manner in which the Pledge of Allegiance should be delivered by stating that, when not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious hat, cap or headdress. The previous requirement been for men not in uniform to remove any headdress.
Under the bill, the Pledge of Allegiance, "should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute."
In its bill, Congress also lists several historical references it believes support the importance of God and religion in American government, such as:
"In 1781, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and later the Nation's third President, in his work titled `Notes on the State of Virginia' wrote: `God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God. That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.'" [...More]
Reaffirming God in the National Motto
In its final section, S. 2690 also reaffirms that the national motto of the United States, as provided for in Section 302 of title 36, United States Code is, "In God we trust."