The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Ruling: “under God” is constitutional

For some reason, this bit of news didn’t get much attention, but it’s worth noting:

pledge.jpgThe Pledge of Allegiance, with its inclusion of the words “under God,” is constitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday (March 11), reversing a previous ruling.

The 2-1 ruling answers a challenge by California atheist Michael Newdow, who argued that the use of the pledge in a Northern California school district — where children of atheists had to listen to others recite it– violated the First Amendment’s clause prohibiting the establishment of religion.


The “students are being coerced to participate in a patriotic exercise, not a religious exercise,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. “The Pledge is not a prayer and its recitation is not a religious exercise.”

In 2002, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the use of the words “under God” in the pledge violated the Constitution. The current court called that decision “erroneous.” The Supreme Court later dismissed the earlier Newdow suit, sidestepping the church-state issues by finding he did not have standing to sue.

“The 9th Circuit today failed to uphold the basic principle found within the first ten words of the Bill of Rights … that the government is required to show equal respect to the lawful religious views of all individuals,” Newdow said Thursday.


Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, founder and president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued for the school district, said the court “finally stood up” for the Pledge of Allegiance.

In a scathing and lengthy dissent, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the words “under God” have an “undeniably religious purpose” and “we have failed in our constitutional duty as a court.”

In a separate decision, also issued Thursday, the 9th Circuit dismissed Newdow’s challenge to the words “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency.

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posted March 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Under the precedent set West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette (1943), students cannot be compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance. So Mr. Newdow could have had his daughter leave the classroom when the Pledge is said.

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posted March 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

In the scheme of state/religion issues, I don’t get too worked up over these two. They’re sort of minor and a bit silly even if the underlying debate is not. I get more upset when religious agendas in the public sphere target my ability to live by my own conscience or try to enforce religion (and ignorant dogmas) on school curricula, etc.
The truth is, the insertion of God into the pledge and money are clearly not organic to the founder’s intent. They were put there by politicians pandering to political interests during wartime. I’m rarely at events where the pledge is delivered anymore, and when I am, who’s to tell me who God is anyway. It doesn’t specify the Judeo-Christian God in the text. I can just as easily pay my respects to Cernunnos. As to the money, clearly we put more trust in the benevolence of China and endless debt than we do God.
I’ve no doubt the dominionists are doing their end-zone dance over this “victory”, but I would pose to them this question: what does it say about the inherent strength of your faith if it requires state coercion (even nominal coercion), to shore it up?

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posted March 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm

An unfortunate ruling.

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posted March 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

“So Mr. Newdow could have had his daughter leave the classroom when the Pledge is said.”
The problem with this being the good Christian students who would see her leaving and harass the dickens out of her for it. That has been one of the factors behind similar lawsuits in the past…the treatment of those students by the majority.
Strange how it is that so many who proclaim God so loudly so quickly turn to the Devil for advice on how to treat those who disagree with them.

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posted March 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm

This sort of nonsense is what you get when you enshrine an error (#55 in Blessed Pope Piux IX’s “Syllabus of Errors”). Whenever an error is elevated to the status of a foundational principle, reason is out the door.

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Your Name

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Atheists and people of other beliefs (JWs for example) have always had the option of not participating in the Pledge. I don’t recall any of them declining payment in US currency, though.
By the way, in spite of the way many people say the Pledge, there is NO COMMA between “One Nation” and “Under God”. It is a single phrase.

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posted March 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm

What a silly people we are (perhaps we have too much time on our hands – I must or I wouldn’t be respondiing to this debate)to be offended because some people believe in a supreme being and wish to recognize this great and unique republic of freedom as a gift from that supreme being.
There has never been a nation – that we know about – in the history of the world where the levels of freedom and prosperity have been enjoyed. I do not believe this was the result of social evolution. I don believe that any one or group of people ever had the ability to creat such an amazing system of government as we enjoy. There have been many who thought they had the wisdom to create a utopia (America may not be a utopia but it was never intended to be. It was intended to be a land of opportunity where hard work was to be rewarded . . . ): people with names like Hitler and Stalin and hundreds of others connected to their wisdom.
No! Man never had the ability to creat such a system of freedom.
Cohercion? You must believe in the boogy man also.

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Doctor Romany

posted March 15, 2010 at 1:59 am

go back to 4chan.

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Doctor Romany

posted March 15, 2010 at 2:11 am

That goes double for you, hlvanburen.

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Blake Helgoth

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

A victory for the Knights of Columbus! It was our fraternal service organization that pushed for the words ‘under God’ to be added in 1954. Patriotism is alive and well.

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John Barba

posted March 15, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Which God?

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posted March 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm

John Barba: My question exactly…”which God” or whose God? The God of the Jews, the God of the Muslims, the God of the Catholics, the Protestant God… just whose God would that be referring to? And just why in a country which fortunately doesn’t have a requirement to be of a certain religion and whose citizens can be no religion if they choose, should there be the words “under God” inserted into a pledge of loyality to our country? Pledging loyality to my country has nothing to do with a god. When reciting the Pledge, I do not say those 2 words. IF the words were removed, those that felt the need could insert them back when the said it.

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posted March 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

“go back to 4chan” Dr. Romany
When I finish laughing, I’ll wish you a nice day.
OK, all done. Have a nice day.

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posted March 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Judge Reinhardt needs to be impeached for the horrendous liberal ruling he has made. He is anti-american. He is a activist Judge.
Throw his ass out. Impeach him for bad behavior.He is a cancer to the 9th circuit. I hope he suffers from obama case , oh , he wont have to take it; he gets off.

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