Pledge of Allegiance ruled unconstitutional – finally

I have no problem pledging allegiance to my country, except when that pledge forces me to acknowledge the existence of God. That part always bothered me intensely, even as a child. It looks like some judges realize this crosses the boundaries of church and state.

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates school children’s right to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

No, it’s not final, just the start of a new showdown. But it’ll spark a new debate, and brace yourself for accusations of “activist judges.”

The Discussion: 28 Comments

Richard, you and I are just ‘Murka hatin’ libruhls, cause I totally agree.

Now if we could just stop the singing of “God Bless America” at every baseball game! The Star Spangled Banner – I approve. Take Me Out to the Ballgame – yes! But God Bless America? And it’s usually that wretched version by Leanne Rhimes. UGH!

September 14, 2005 @ 4:21 pm | Comment

“To the oceans, white with foam….”

What drek.

September 14, 2005 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

And it’s triple-drek with Leanne Rhimes, I’m telling you!

September 14, 2005 @ 6:27 pm | Comment

I don’t think it is so clear cut. Sure, if the pledge read, “One nation, under Jesus,” that would be something else. What about the words “spirit” or “soul?” Those words have inherent religious meanings, yet also have meanings that are not specifically religious or sectarian. The word “God” also falls into this category: e.g., “I am the God of Cajun cooking, God damn it!” What if the pledge used the words “under the spirit of democracy” or “the soul of the nation?” Would those phrases be violations of the establishment clause? It would be hard to argue that. Does using the word “God” automatically constitute an establishment of religion? (“Do you swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” “In God We Trust” “God save this honorable court.”) On and on.

Well, it is easy to argue the other side if you believe the government should never be allowed to use the word “God” in any context. We would have to alter the Declaration of Independence, for starters. That isn’t realistic.

It would make more legal sense to litigate against the pledge entirely.

For the record, I’m not religious. In political terms, all this will do is get the religious right even more riled up and is thus counterproductive. Pick fights that matter.

September 14, 2005 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

The words “Under God” weren’t in the original Pledge and were pasted in by Eisenhower, who wanted to use it as a differentiator between the God-fearing Americans and the godless communists. There’s no reason we can’t restore it to its original form; to me, it adds nothing and causes agnostics and atheists unnecessary grief.

September 14, 2005 @ 8:04 pm | Comment

Actually the Pledge is a demeaning, ridiculous custom, even without the word “God”

It was created and promoted back in the 1890s, as a means of assimilating the vast numbers of new immigrants, especially the ones from Eastern and Southern Europe whose “patriotism” was in question.

But back around 200 years ago, the founders of America would have been enraged by any suggestion that their children should make a public “pledge” of allegiance – because requiring a public pledge implies that the allegiance is in question.

September 14, 2005 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

Judge: School Pledge Of Allegiance Is Unconstitutional

These days everything is political and a federal judge’s ruling that reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional will most certainly mean one…

September 14, 2005 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

Hey, maybe we could take “in God We Trust” off of all the money too?

Common Lisa, I’m not a believer in God either, but I think the liberals are taking this religion stuff to far sometimes.

Pledge of Allegiance? Fine, it wasn’t originally part of it in the first place.

Singing God Bless America at the Ball Game? That’s just a cultural tradition.

It really irks me when liberals go out of their way to remove every aspect of God from our society because it’s just as much a part of our culture as baseball games are.

As long as nobody is forcing me to pray or teaching my children some religious doctrine in school, I could care less about where they post the Ten Comandments or where people pray.

September 14, 2005 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

It’s not just liberals, but libertarians and atheists and agnostics. I don’t mind reference to God, like on a coin. I don’t believe I should have to make a pledge that references God, however. That’s a deep distinction.

The notion of church-state separation is a very old, very conservative concept in America and has nothing to do with liberalism. It was a platform for our entire Constitution. The ones who go on about “liberals” trying to wipe out God are the Bill O’Reillys and Michelle Maglalangs of the world. Just another myth they churn out every year on Fox News come Christmas time.

September 14, 2005 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

Another one that bothers me is having to swear in court that what I’m saying is the truth, “so help me God”. Ain’t no god or gods going to be helping me!

As for money, I would much prefer to go back to the traditional pre-1950’s “E Pluribus Unum” – much more relevant, meaningful and inclusive than an invocation of somebody’s fantastic deity.

September 14, 2005 @ 11:02 pm | Comment

Richard, you are right on the timing of the change to the pledge. Prior to that the woprds were …one nation … indivisible … with liberty etc. Still, I agree with both Gordon and hmmmm. The courts should have more important matters to decide. But then, Congress should have more on its plate right now than another lame attempt to get an anti-flag burning bill passed that would raise the issue to constitutional status. At times, after reviewing the latest idiocy from both extreme right and left, a couple of months in a cave staring at a blank wall begins to look tempting.

September 14, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

I’m in agreement about priorities. But all these cases have to be heard, that’s the way our system works. I wouldn’t compare it to the flag-burning amendment, which is a pure, unadulterated right-wing wedge.

I really was troubled by “under God” for years, wondering why I had to make a declaration like that every nmorning. Flag burning, on the other hand, poses no such moral dilemmas. It’s a twisted thing to do, but any legislator who chooses that, of all issues, to focus on should be sent home packing.

September 14, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

I have trouble with the idea of a pledge.

There’s a huge difference between having feelings for the land of one’s birth on the one hand, and having to swear a loyalty oath to an abstract symbol of state power on a daily basis.

But I’m just a rootless cosmopolitan…

September 14, 2005 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

And I wonder why the so-called “Christian” fundamentalists don’t raise hell about “God” on US coins and currency. (That started in 1864, by the way, on the Two Cent Piece.)

I mean, in the Gospels, the only time Jesus ever lost his temper was when he cleared the money-changers from the Temple. Putting “God” on money seems blasphemous to me.

September 14, 2005 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

Michael Newdow, the self proclaimed athiest behind these challenges, is just a selfish, pathetic, whining ponce. The 9th jerk-it court of schlemels agreed with him and they declared the pledge un-constitiutional. There was an injucntion put on that. He took it to the Supreme Court and was handed his hat and told to beat it. (So they never rendered a decision on it) He was filing suit on behalf of his daughter but was disqualified because his status as having custody of his daughter is in question (the mother is a practicing Christian by the way).

So now he gets two families to hire him a lawyer (He is a Lawyer and a Doctor) and goes after the Elk Grove school district again. He is persistent, I’ll give him that. This is another path to get it back to the supreme cout again. But with Bush ready to have two judges put on the bench, it is almost guaranteed that he will lose again. I have heard the man interviewed and he seems to me to be very self serving. He has stated that he also plans to challenge the “In God We Trust” on money and the prayer invocation at the beginning of Congress session.

September 15, 2005 @ 11:20 am | Comment

He got huge kudos for his testimony to the supreme court. I think he’s a smart, sincere guy who deserves some credit for following through on his convictions. In this case (the pledge) I think he is totally correct.

September 15, 2005 @ 11:24 am | Comment

Do kids in public school need to recite the pledge everyday in school? If that is the case, wow, I must say the patriotic education in US is much more aggressive than what is in China. There was this flag raising ceremony every morning when I was at high school in China, at least I don’t need to say anything but stand there. It was more of a nuisance to me than feeling patriotic.

September 15, 2005 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

Now I came to think of it, the flag ceremony was just on Mondays, not even everyday.

September 15, 2005 @ 2:23 pm | Comment

>> I must say the patriotic education in US is much more aggressive than what is in China.

Considering that the entire goal of the Chinese education system is to promote nationalism, I find your statement kind of funny.

September 15, 2005 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

hmmm, I don’t really know how much you know about Chinese education system to make that statement. At least I spent 15 years in that system, I would think I know it better than you do, and I find your statement pretty funny.

September 15, 2005 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

wawa, if you want to actually compare the two educational systems rather than just a using a silly ad hominem, we might have some basis to continue. And if you actually did compare the two systems, you would find that one uses bizarrely distorted “history” and a political agenda controlled by the state to encourage nationalism, and the other uses free inquiry to encourage independent thinking and is not controlled by a political party.

Pledge or no pledge, you decide which system is “more aggressive in patriotic education.”

September 15, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

hmmm, both educational systems need to promote nationalism, otherwise it is a failed system. Being patriotic is a good thing in my opinion, and I don’t really have enough knowledge to compare the two systems for nationalism, all histories are distorted in education, just to what degree, and I agree with you that China is much worse than US in that category.

All I was saying is that in China, I don’t need to recite any pledge everyday, and the only thing I think is comparable is the weekly flag rasing ceremony, in that aspect, I think US is much more aggressive.

September 15, 2005 @ 8:21 pm | Comment


>both educational systems need to promote nationalism, otherwise it is a failed system.

Disagree entirely. Education should restrain the natural inclination of people towards nationalism. People certainly don’t need to be encouraged to be nationalist; just the reverse, in fact. To the extent that the American educational system encourages nationalism, I think it is a failure.

>>all histories are distorted in education, just to what degree, and I agree with you that China is much worse than US in that category.

True statement. Agree.

>>in that aspect, I think US is much more aggressive.

The key phrase is “in this aspect.” You didn’t use that phrase originally, which is why I found your first statement totally out of proportion.

September 15, 2005 @ 9:25 pm | Comment

First, recitation of the pledge is entirely voluntary. In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette the US Supreme Court held that requiring anyone to recite the pledge was a violation of the free speech protections of the First Amendment.

Second, in Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court distinguished practices such as prayer (prohibited) from patriotic expressons that refer to a diety (permitted).

Finally, in Lynch v. Donnelly, the Court’s most liberal justice, indicated that the pledge did not have the purpose of effect of advancing religion.

Michael Newdow will lose his case and, in the process, cost the school district and state another million dollars that could have instead been spent education children.

What a self-aggandizing ass.

September 15, 2005 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

Schools differ, I’ve been to 4 elmentary schools and two middle-highschools in china, 4 of those required students to attend flag raising ceremonies everyday and sing the anthem every monday(and flag ceremonies on monday usually lasted 20 minutes…20 minutes of standing on the steaming asphalt listening to the principal go on endlesslly about ..hmph… well she always said a lot, I guess I never cared to listen), 2 of those had flag raising ceremonies every monday (one of them being an international school)

September 17, 2005 @ 4:45 am | Comment

2 of those had flag raising ceremonies every monday
I meant 2 of those had flag raising ceremonies just every monday

September 17, 2005 @ 4:49 am | Comment

Oh, and the anthem singing is a pretty funny thing. Students just mouth the words making no sound (and on very cold days they exhale while mouthing so it’d seem like they’re singing). The teachers can’t really do anything about it since there arent any laws forbidding students to sing with a small voice (they can claim to have colds). ³ÁĬµØµÖ¿¹

September 17, 2005 @ 4:57 am | Comment

Why don’t they just make that part of the pledge voluntary? That way you can opt out or opt in.

September 25, 2005 @ 10:24 am | Comment

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