Supreme Court Ducks Controversy Over Pledge Of Allegiance

Issue Sure To Resurface At High Court, Says Americans United

Today's Supreme Court decision dismissing on technical grounds a legal challenge to the use of "under God" in public school recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance is disappointing, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

California physician Michael Newdow brought the suit on behalf of his daughter, a public school student. But Newdow has only partial custody of the girl, and the court today ruled he has does not have the right to sue on her behalf.

"I am disappointed with the court's action," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Students should not feel compelled by school officials to subscribe to a particular religious belief in order to show love of country. America is increasingly diverse in matters of religion, and our public schools should reflect that diversity."

Lynn said the Pledge case raised important issues that the court should have addressed head-on. He added that he believes the issue will resurface in the federal courts.

"The justices ducked this constitutional issue today, but it is certain to come back in the future," Lynn said.

During oral arguments in March, Newdow, who was never married to his daughter's mother, was pressed by the justices on the issue of his right to sue on the girl's behalf. The lawyers for the Elk Grove Unified School District, which included the U.S. Solicitor General, noted that Newdow does not have primary custody of his daughter and that his daughter and her mother, both Christians, do not object to "under God" in the Pledge.

"Students who are outside the Judeo-Christian tradition should not be pressured by their teachers to put aside their beliefs in order to show love of country," Lynn said. "The compelling issues raised by this case won't disappear because of today's action by the Supreme Court."

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge violates church-state separation. AU attorneys asserted that government, through the public school system, should not compel students to recite a patriotic oath with religious content.

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.

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.