Court Allows 'Under God' on Technicality
Mon Jun 14, 9:01 PM
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday allowed millions of schoolchildren to keep affirming loyalty to one nation "under God" but dodged the underlying question of whether the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional blending of church and state.
The ruling overturned a lower court decision that the religious reference made the pledge unconstitutional in public schools. But the decision did so on technical grounds, ruling the man who brought the case on behalf of his 10-year-old daughter could not legally represent her.
It was an anticlimactic end to an emotional high court showdown over God in the public schools and in public life. It also neutralizes what might have been a potent election-year political issue in which the Bush administration argued strongly that the reference to God should remain part of the pledge.
In a ruling last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) in San Francisco said the language of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's precedents make clear that tax-supported schools cannot lend their imprimatur to a declaration of fealty to "one nation under God."
That decision set off a national uproar and would have stripped the reference to God from the version of the pledge said by about 9.6 million schoolchildren in California and other Western states covered by the appeals court.
Children were never barred from saying the full pledge, because the lower court ruling was on hold while the Supreme Court considered the issue.
Like most elementary school children, Newdow's daughter hears her teacher lead the pledge each morning. The case began when Newdow, a lawyer, doctor and self-proclaimed atheist minister, sued his daughter's Sacramento-area school district, Congress and President Bush (news - web sites) to remove the words "under God."
In one of the many odd twists to an odd case, Newdow served as his own lawyer when the Supreme Court heard arguments in March. He argued that each day his daughter hears the pledge is another day that a teacher tells her, in effect, that her father is wrong.
The mother, Sandra Banning, told the court in legal filings that she makes the decisions about the girl's education. Newdow can fight the pledge on his own, but should not drag their daughter into it, Banning argued. She added that she supports leaving the pledge as it is, and wants her daughter to continue reciting it at school.
The case is Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, 02-1624.
On the Net:
Ruling in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow: http://wid.ap.org/documents/scotus/040614newdow.pdf
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