A federal appeals court in California has rejected calls to rehear a controversial ruling that struck down recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools due to its religious content. Today's decision, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State, protects freedom of conscience.
"The government should not link religion and patriotism," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United Executive Director. "An individual can express love of country regardless of his or her religious or philosophical outlook."
Lynn said it was a mistake for Congress in 1954 to amend the Pledge by adding "under God" to it. That act, he said, turned a purely patriotic exercise into a patriotic and religious exercise.
"Public schools cannot coerce children into taking part in religious exercises, even seemingly benign and generic ones," Lynn said. "The phrase 'under God' may seem innocuous to many, but to those who object to it, nothing less than freedom of conscience is at stake."
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the use of "under God" in the Pledge in June of 2002. The Bush administration then filed legal briefs asking that an 11-member panel rehear the case.
Today's ruling by the entire panel not to accept a rehearing means that the decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lynn said the high court should reject the case as well.
" Public schools should welcome all students, regardless of what they may believe or not believe about God," Lynn said. "If the Supreme Court overturns this ruling, it will open the door for public schools to impose bland, watered-down forms of 'civil religion' onto students. That would not be a positive development for church or state. "
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.