Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional
A federal judge in California has ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional since it contains the phrase “under God.”
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates school children’s right to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
Except that ruling was made by a three judge panel and the 9th Circuit as a whole overruled it and SCOTUS ruled the father had no standing.
Update: The expanded AP story gives more information. The pertinent additions:
The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year, saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter he sued on behalf of. Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue.
Karlton, appointed to the Sacramento bench in 1979 by President Carter, wrote that the case concerned “the ongoing struggle as to the role of religion in the civil life of this nation” and added that his opinion “will satisfy no one involved in that debate.” Karlton dismissed claims that the 1954 Congressional legislation inserting the words “under God” was unconstitutional. If his ruling stands, he reasoned that the school children and their parents in the case would not be harmed by the phrase because they would no longer have to recite it at school.
That explains why Nednow is back in court–he’s acting as attorney, not client–but does not explain Karlton’s logic. My guess is the problem rests with the AP reporter rather than Karlton. I haven’t seen the opinion yet and the Volokh Conspirators are silent thus far. Howard Bashman links the SF Chronicle account of the story, which isn’t any more helpful.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional, a federal court judge ruled today, saying that the pledgeÃ¢€™s reference to Ã¢€œunder GodÃ¢€ violated school childrenÃ¢€™s right to be Ã¢€œfree from a coercive requirement to affirm God.Ã¢€
In their lawsuit, each of the adult plaintiffs claimed that he or she had Ã¢€œbeen made to feel like a Ã¢€˜political outsiderÃ¢€™ due to the Ã¢€˜governmentÃ¢€™s embrace of (Christian) monotheism in the Pledge of Allegiance,Ã¢€™ Ã¢€ Karlton wrote.
I want my instant analysis and I want it now!