One pledge, ‘under God’

Eight years after issuing a highly controversial ruling that the addition of the words “under God” made the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional for children to recite in school, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed itself last week, and decided the full pledge was acceptable.

Good for the court. Judge Carlos T. Bea put it in terms that most Americans can accept: “Not every mention of God or religion by our government or at the government’s direction is a violation of the Establishment Clause” of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

In between the 2002 ruling and the 2010 one — both of which involved cases brought by the same atheist parent named Michael Newdow — the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the 2002 decision for other reasons. Newdow, the high court noted, didn’t have legal custody of his daughter when he challenged the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at the school she attended. And neither the daughter or her mother, who did have legal custody, objected to the girl reciting the pledge.

Furthermore, the girl then, as with all other students in the United States today, could not legally be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That was one factor the Ninth Circuit mentioned in its decision last week.

Beyond that, just because the word God is mentioned in a public place or event, it doesn’t mean the government is sanctioning a particular religion.

The same day, the Ninth District Court of Appeals also ruled that the words, “In God We Trust,” on U.S. currencies are not unconstitutional.

Even Newdow acknowledged following Thursday’s ruling that because the Ninth Circuit’s decision is now in line with all other federal appeals court decisions on constitutionality of authorizing public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the issue is essentially settled. The Supreme Court is unlikely to take up the case again.

Perhaps this will bring an end to Newdow’s needlessly divisive efforts.


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