Wednesday, September 14, 2005

San Francisco Federal Court Strikes Down Pledge of Allegiance

Today a San Francisco District Court declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The plaintiff in the case is Michael Newdow, the same man whose case was thrown out when the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that he had no standing to bring suit on behalf of his daughter, because he did not have parental authority to do so following his divorce.

In today’s ruling the District Court ruled that it was bound to follow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down the Pledge in 2003. That decision was set aside by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. Mr. Newdow then filed the current suit.

Earlier this year, on August 10, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a Virginia case that the Pledge was constitutional. The San Francisco ruling will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and if the Pledge is there ruled unconstitutional, the Supreme Court will likely take the case and this time address the merits.

In the current judicial climate, today’s ruling is not surprising but it is dismaying. This history of the Pledge of Allegiance illustrates that the phrase “under God” is a permissible acknowledgement rather than an establishment of religion. If the Pledge established or tended to establish a religion, then that would have happened during the past 50 years of its existence. Day after day we have recited the Pledge from the classroom to the stateroom, from private meetings to public events, and not once has it tended to establish a religion. Today’s ruling illustrates why we need judges who are umpires applying settled law rather than activists intent on imposing their own ideology.

Liberty Counsel filed a brief in the Newdow case when it was before the United States Supreme Court in support of the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberty Counsel will now file a brief in this most recent Newdow case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and before the Supreme Court if the case ends up there.