Judges Uphold ‘God’ in Pledge, Currency

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 12, 2010

(from WashingtonTimes.com) AP, SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments Thursday that the phrases violate the separation of church and state.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who claimed the references to God [are unconstitutional and infringe on] his religious beliefs.

“The Pledge is constitutional,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. “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.”

The same court ruled in Mr. Newdow’s favor in 2002 after he sued his daughter’s school district for having students recite the Pledge at school.

[Bea noted that schools do not require students to recite the pledge, which was amended to include the words “under God” by a 1954 federal law. Members of Congress at the time said they wanted to set the United States apart from “godless communists.”]

That lawsuit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, but the high court ruled that Mr. Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the lawsuit because he didn’t have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case.

So Mr. Newdow, a doctor and lawyer [who founded a group called the First Atheist Church of True Science], filed an identical challenge on behalf of other parents who objected to the recitation of the Pledge at school. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Mr. Newdow’s favor, ruling that the Pledge was unconstitutional.

“I want to be treated equally,” Mr. Newdow said when he argued the case before the 9th Circuit in December 2007. He added that supporters of the phrase “want to have their religious views espoused by the government.”

In a separate 3-0 ruling Thursday, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto “In God We Trust” on coins and currency, saying that the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious.

Reached on his cell phone Thursday, Mr. Newdow said he wasn’t aware that the appeals court had ruled against him.

“Oh, man, what a bummer,” he said.

Mr. Newdow said he would comment further after he had read the decisions.

[Rory Little, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said the Supreme Court is unlikely to review the case because Thursday’s ruling is the third appellate court decision upholding the pledge.

In addition, Congress passed legislation reaffirming the pledge in 2002, following the 9th Circuit’s ruling that struck it down.

“I think this is the last word on this particular lawsuit,” Little said. “It’s an important ruling.”

Greg Katsas, who argued the currency case on behalf of the U.S. government when the appellate court heard the case in December 2007, said the panel made the right decision Thursday.

“I think these two phrases encapsulate the philosophy on which the nation was founded,” said Katsas, who now works in private practice. “There is a religious aspect to saying “One nation under God,” but it isn’t like a prayer. When someone says the pledge, they’re not praying to God, they’re pledging allegiance to the country, the flag and the ideals of the country.”]

NOTE: The last five paragraphs are from an AP report written by Terence Chea and posted at Yahoo News.

Associated Press.  Reprinted from the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.

Questions

1. How did the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (federal appeals court) rule in Michael Newdow’s latest lawsuit?

2. On what grounds was Mr. Newdow attempting to remove “under God” and “In God We Trust” from the Pledge of Allegiance and U.S. currency?

3. On what basis did the 9th Circuit Court reject Mr. Newdow’s challenge to “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance?

4. What were the outcomes of Mr. Newdow’s previous lawsuits?

5. On what basis did the 9th Circuit Court reject Mr. Newdow’s challenge to our national motto “Under God We Trust” being printed on our currency?

6. Ask a parent, and a grandparent, what they think about Mr. Newdow’s attempts to remove mention of God from our pledge and our currency. Do you agree with their opinions? Explain your answer.


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Background

In God We Trust is the official motto of the United States. The motto first appeared on a coin in 1864 during strong Christian sentiment emerging during the Civil War, but In God We Trust did not become the official U.S. national motto until after the passage of an Act of Congress in 1956.

Louis A. Bowman (1872-1959) was the first to initiate the addition of “under God” to the Pledge. He was Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. At a meeting on February 12, 1948, Lincoln’s Birthday, he led the Society in swearing the Pledge with two words added, “under God.” He stated that the words came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Though not all manuscript versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words “under God”, all the reporters’ transcripts of the speech as delivered do, as perhaps Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said “that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.”

Resources

Read about the history of “In God We Trust” on our currency at the U.S. Treasury website ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml.

Read about the Pledge of Allegiance at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance.