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U.S. Circuit Court rules Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–The Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and should not be recited in public schools because it includes the words “under God,” a federal appeals court ruled June 26, siding with an atheist who filed the original complaint.

In its 2-1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 1954 act of Congress that inserted the phrase “under God” after the phrase “one nation” in the pledge.

The ruling, if allowed to stand, means schoolchildren can no longer recite the pledge, at least in the nine Western states covered by the court.

The court said the phrase amounts to a government endorsement of religion in violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which requires a separation of church and state.

“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 for the three-judge panel.

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said he stands against the court’s ruling.

“On the face of it, this ruling is opposed to our heritage,” Chapman said. “Our forebearers founded this nation under God. I urge Southern Baptists across America to contact their elected representatives and voice their disaffection with this decision.”

SBC President Jack Graham said in a prepared statement that he regretted the systematic attempt by some to remove God’s name from public life.

“At a time when we celebrate our nation’s freedom, I call upon our churches and their members to exercise their rights and express their dismay that such a decision would be made, and appeal to our leaders, lawmakers, and legislatures that this very foolish decision be overturned.”

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, denounced the decision and suggested that if the ruling is not overturned that Christians should consider civil disobedience.

“I join tens of millions of Americans in praying that the Supreme Court will stay or reverse this opinion as soon as possible so that before school starts in August our nation’s school children who live in the Ninth Circuit will once again have the opportunity to pledge allegiance to the flag.

“Unless the Supreme Court stays or reverses this egregious decision, it may well be time for the people of the affected states to engage in massive, civil disobedience by voluntarily pledging allegiance to the flag in every public school every day at an agreed upon time whether the Ninth Circuit likes it or not. What are they going to do? Arrest a whole generation of patriotic school children?”

Land wondered if what he called aggressive separationists would attempt to remove “In God We Trust” from the nation’s currency.

“I fear that that’s precisely where judicial radicals like these three members of the Ninth Circuit will go until the court of public opinion and the U.S. Supreme Court stop their blind and mindless pursuit of their rabidly secularist ideal,” Land said.

“There is a reason why the Ninth Circuit is the most reversed circuit in America. It is more out of touch with America than any other court of appeals in the country. For that we should be grateful.”

Family Research Council president Ken Connor said the ruling represents another attempt to secularize a country born out of religious liberty.

“We believe the 9th Circuit is clearly out of step with the people of this country and the history of its founding,” Connor said in a press release. “Time and again the Courts have affirmed our national motto, ‘In God We Trust’.”

“If the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, so is the Declaration of Independence,” said Connor.

The ruling will not take effect for several months, to allow further appeals. The government can ask the court to reconsider its ruling, or it can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn it.

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