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Court stays Pledge ruling while protesters gather in Washington

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge stayed a June 26 ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. The ruling will stand, but temporarily will not go into effect, CNSNews.com reported.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is “unconstitutional” because Congress passed a law inserting the phrase “under God.” Circuit Judge Alfred Goodwin, who wrote the decision for the three-judge panel, stayed his ruling until other members of the court decide can whether or not to rehear the case. Either the same three-judge panel or the entire 11-judge panel could rehear the case.

According to the Associated Press, Goodwin’s ruling has little impact because of a hold put on each decision for 45 days to allow for challenges.

Meanwhile, A crowd of more than 200 people identifying themselves only as “supporters” of the Pledge of Allegiance gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 27 at noon to recite the pledge.

There were no speeches given, no press releases distributed, and seemingly no one in charge. The crowd began gathering at approximately 11:30 a.m. (Eastern) and grew steadily until just before noon when an unidentified person shouted, “Join me now in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Jamie Hosek of Clutier, Iowa, said that, as a Christian, she felt the need to show her support for the phrase “under God” in the pledge.

“All religions believe in a god,” she explained. “I’m praying to the Christian God, but other people are praying to other gods. But we all need to stand together in this.”

Hosek says she was “shocked” when she heard that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because the phrase “under God” violates the so-called “establishment clause” of the First Amendment.

“I just can’t believe this. This is the Pledge of Allegiance. This represents America. How could it be unconstitutional?” she asked.

College student Stephen Ng from Arlington, Va., had a similar reaction.

“I think the court ruling in California was simply awful,” he said. “Under God? This nation has always been under God and will always be under God.”

Ng says he understands the complaints of those who may not believe in any god, but still believes the phrase should not be removed from the pledge.

“If we do that, then we have to take out the parts of the Declaration of Independence that refer to God. We can’t allow students in school to sing ‘God Bless America,’ or ‘America the Beautiful,’ because those refer to God,” he argued. “The Constitution talks about God, the Declaration of Independence talks about God. Our founding fathers talked about God.”

He pointed out that both the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial contain inscriptions referring to God.

“If we’re going to remove God from our Pledge of Allegiance, we have to remove him from all these other things,” Ng concluded. “Where does it stop?”

Kay Daly of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary organized the rally, she says, for two reasons.

“One, to incite people on a very hot afternoon to stand on the steps of the Supreme Court, where this case undoubtedly will be heard, and say the Pledge of Allegiance,” she told CNSNews.com . “Second, to bring attention to the problem we have with judicial activism.”

Daly believes Senate Democrats’ unwillingness to confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees is at least partly to blame for the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which she calls “the poster child for judicial activism.”

“Had Senators [Tom] Daschle (D-S.D.) and [Patrick] Leahy (D-Vt.) confirmed the Bush nominees, chances are [that] this opinion would never have been written,” she said. “The judge who wrote this opinion was on ‘senior status’ at the time, which means he’s effectively retired. But because there is a vacancy crisis, they had to keep using him.”

In fact, there are three vacancies on that particular court, all of which have been designated as judicial emergencies. Of the president’s three nominations, two have been pending for more than a year and only one has had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling will do little to keep the phrase “under God” out of public school classrooms if the Family Research Council has anything to say about it.

The group gained notoriety outside the pro-family, Judeo-Christian community when they distributed thousands of textbook covers displaying the Ten Commandments in response to a court ruling that the Ten Commandments could not be posted in public buildings including schools. Students’ right to display the book covers is protected under the free speech provisions in the First Amendment.

Now, FRC says it is offering similar book covers to students, these prominently displaying the Pledge of Allegiance, including the judiciary-offending phrase “under God.”

“FRC is proud to help students across the country make a statement of support for the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Ken Connor, president of the organization. “These book covers are an excellent way of insuring the pledge remains in the nation’s classrooms with or without the support of a runaway judiciary.”

Daly says that, while the crises of judicial vacancies and judicial activism are important to her, Thursday’s rally was about supporting the Pledge of Allegiance. She suggests that those who oppose the phrase “under God” in the pledge visit Arlington National Cemetery.

“There are a lot of people who died for those words,” she concluded. “And I beg to differ with anyone who thinks this nation is not blessed by God. It is. And as soon as we start denying him, we’ve got a problem.”
Johnson is a congressional bureau chief for CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Jeff Johnson