SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–The Pledge of Allegiance appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced Feb. 28 it would not reconsider a June decision in which it ruled the pledge’s inclusion of “under God” is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. A three-member panel issued that opinion. The court had been asked to rehear the case as an 11-member panel but rejected that option in its latest announcement.
The Ninth Circuit Court, which is located in San Francisco, also issued an amended opinion that maintained the central holding in the case. The ruling will affect public school classrooms in the nine western states of the Ninth Circuit.
The only recourse for a reversal of the decision is the Supreme Court.
In its June decision, the panel overturned a 1954 act of Congress that inserted the phrase “under God” after the phrase “one nation” in the pledge.
“A profession that we are a nation ‘under God’ is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation ‘under Jesus,’ a nation ‘under Vishnu,’ a nation ‘under Zeus,’ or a nation ‘under no god,’ because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion,” Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote in the panel’s opinion.
The panel’s June decision immediately ignited a firestorm of criticism — and not just from religious conservatives. The panel quickly stayed enforcement of the ruling. The Senate promptly approved a resolution affirming the pledge by a 99-0 vote. In early October, the House of Representatives passed a similar measure by a 401-5 vote.