Thursday, September 15, 2005

Federal judge declares Pledge unconstitutional

A federal judge in Sacramento ruled Wednesday that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools violates the Constitution's protection of religious freedom because the pledge refers to "one Nation under God."
The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, revives a legal challenge to the 51-year-old version of the Pledge. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that challenge last year. The case may be headed that way again. Derek Gaubatz, lawyer for students who want to keep the Pledge, says the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court "if necessary ... as quickly as possible."
In June 2004, five of the Supreme Court's nine justices found that Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow did not have custody of his school age daughter and thus could not challenge school district policy that allowed teachers to lead students in a voluntary recitation of the Pledge.The decision enabled the high court to dodge a battle over whether the phrase "under God" carries a religious meaning that is unacceptable under the Constitution's First Amendment, which forbids government endorsement of religion. The court also avoided deciding whether reciting the Pledge in schools is a coerced religious practice.Newdow refiled the case in January and added as plaintiffs two sets of anonymous atheist parents who also have children in Sacramento-area schools. On Wednesday, Karlton ruled that the new plaintiffs were qualified to sue although Newdow isn't.Because the Supreme Court had rejected Newdow's challenge on procedural grounds and not on its merits, Karlton wrote, he was required to reinstate an earlier federal appeals court ruling in the case that had struck down the recitation of the pledge.....


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