Beliefnet
Lynn v. Sekulow

Barry,

I know we’ve got health care and the issue of textbook curriculum on the discussion pages, but I wanted to briefly report on a couple of decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit – decisions that are of great interest to both you and me.  In what were closely watched cases, the appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance and our national motto.

The court concluded that the recitation of the Pledge in a California classroom – with the words ‘under God’ is not a prayer, but instead “a recognition of our founders’ political philosophy that a power greater than the government gives the people their inalienable rights . . . Thus, the Pledge is an endorsement of our form of government, not of religion or any particular sect.”

The appeals court concluded that “the Pledge is one of allegiance to our Republic, not of allegiance to God or to any religion. Furthermore, Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose when it enacted and amended the Pledge over time was patriotic, not religious.”

The court also determined that the Pledge plays an important role in underscoring ideals that are part of our history:   “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God–the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; indivisible–although we have individual states, they are united in one Republic; with liberty–the government cannot take away the people’s inalienable rights; and justice for all–everyone in America is entitled to ‘equal justice under the law’ (as is inscribed above the main entrance to our Supreme Court).”

In a separate decision, the 9th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the national motto, “In God, We Trust” on our currency – saying that the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious.  The court ruled that Michael Newdow, who brought both challenges, “did not and cannot cite a single Supreme Court case that called into question the motto’s constitutionality. . .”  The appeals court also noted that its decision is consistent with other decisions upholding the constitutionality of the national motto. 

We filed an amicus brief representing 50 members of Congress in the national motto case. 

Barry, it’s always been our position that while the First Amendment affords atheists complete freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact religious references in every area of public life in order to suit atheistic sensibilities. 

The appeals court reached the proper conclusion in both cases by rejecting more attempts to re-write history. 

Will these 9th Circuit decisions end the legal challenges?  I doubt it.  Newdow already says he will appeal both rulings. While you can never predict how a court will rule, it seems highly unlikely that this legal challenge will succeed.

What the 9th Circuit did accomplish is add to the growing body of court decisions that have concluded that there’s no constitutional crisis created by the Pledge or the national motto.  As the appeals court pointed out: “Not every mention of God or religion by our government or at the government’s direction is a violation of the Establishment Clause.”

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