Sunday, September 18, 2005

Feds To Challenge Pledge Ban

CNN gives us this story stating that the US Justice Department will challenge a US District Court's ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

The high court "has affirmed time and again that such official acknowledgments of our nation's religious heritage, foundation and character are constitutional," [US Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales said in a statement a day after the ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in San Francisco.

CNN's story has one minor flaw that I caught.

The decisions by Karlton and the appeals court conflict with an August opinion by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. That court upheld a Virginia law requiring public schools lead daily Pledge of Allegiance recitation, similar to the requirement in California.

California does not require the pledge to said in school classrooms. State ed code requires a "daily patriotic exercise" in the public schools, and the law specifically states that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance will satisfy the requirements of that law. Saying the pledge was so contentious at the school at which I teach that we had to compromise on a daily patriotic quote. If Virginia's law requires the schools to lead the recitation of the pledge, that's not very similar to California's law at all.

And let's not forget that individual recitation of the pledge is not required, as determined by the Supreme Court in 1943.

This CNN story, from the last pledge go-around in 2003, has two interesting quotes.

The ban was put on hold until the high court issues a final ruling. The First Amendment bans government "establishment of religion," but the Supreme Court twice previously has declared the pledge constitutional.

Legal precedent makes reciting the pledge a voluntary act, but Newdow argues it is unconstitutional for students to be forced to hear it, saying the teacher-led recitations carry the stamp of government approval. [emphasis mine--Darren]

I wonder if, when the Supreme Court rules that it is constitutional, lefties will sport bumper stickers saying "It's not my pledge." And of those that do, I wonder if their indignation will be real or just another reason to hate the right. But hey, they still have Roe.


John said...


The CNN story stated that the "Pledge of Allegiance can't be recited in public schools because it contains a reference to God." To me, that's a different issue than saying the Court ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is uncontitutional.

Of course, you could have stated that the post 1954 Pledge with its modifications has been ruled unconstitutional.

Darren said...

I guess that means we couldn't show the opening of each Supreme Court session in school either, what with "God save the United States and this honorable Court" being recited.

Nor could we even hear a recording of Kate Smith singing God Bless America.

Or have any money, with "In God We Trust" on it.

I'll stand by my claim that the Supremes *will* overturn this ruling, if the 9th Circuit (cough cough) doesn't do it first.

Bored Huge Krill said...

I've been away for a while, but I'm back now :-)

This is a very interesting issue. I'm not sure I have a full understanding of all of the issues, but I have at least a tentative opinion. I'm quite willing to be convinced otherwise.

I agree very much with John's comments. That view matches my own conclusions very closely.

One has to remember that the pledge is right at the bottom of the pecking order with respect to such things as the declaration of independence and the constitution; it isn't some sacred text written in stone. It has, in fact, been modified many times and the most recent modification, the 1954 Eisenhower/McCarthy amendment to add "under God" is not something that ought to be considered sacrasanct.

One other thing I should make clear: I'm a Brit, living in Oregon, so my opinions should be considered in that regard. Nonetheless, I choose to live in the US and consider it a reasonable requirement that I recite the pledge when called upon to do so. I do, in fact, do just that on many occasions: such a situation frequently occurs at my childrens' schools, my son's boy scout troop meetings, my daughter's swim meets and my neighborhood fourth of July celebrations, to name a few (I also have a Stars and Stripes hanging outside my house, btw).

What has been ruled unconstitutional (pending a long line of appeals, no doubt) is not the pledge, but the recitation of "under God" in public schools. I think this is a great shame, but not because I support the inclusion of the "under God" phrase (I don't - think it's an abomination for reasons I'll explain) but because this petty argument about an uneccessary phrase is hampering what should be a perfectly reasonable patriotic recitation in a number of circumstances. It would be preferable if schoolchildren (and everybody else) were able to feel comfortable about making a patriotic pledge without the necessity of bringing religion into the discussion. It's unecessary and obstructive.

On the inclusion of "under God" itself. This troubles me for two reasons. One, a statement of patriotism should not be contingent on a commitment to religion. Two, the Eisenhower/McCarthy language dilutes what I consider a key sentiment of the pledge: the prior language "one nation indivisible", which for me is a principal issue highlighted by the pre-1954 language. Given the post civil war environment in which the original pledge was written it seems to me to be a most important statement - particularly considering the terrible price which was paid to settle that particular argument. The phrase "one nation, indivisible" appears in the original 1892 version, and every version since, until it was sabotaged by Eisenhower and McCarthy. Just personally, and speaking as a relatively recent immigrant (and as yet non-citizen), I'd very much like to see it restored

Best Regards

Darren said...

Abomination is a pretty strong word to be used in this situation!

I can understand, but not agree with, those like Krill who think that a (non-required) patriotic exercise should not involve some reference to deity. I don't interpret the First Amendment that way.

The 1st Amendment bars government creation of a church (establishment) as well as government interference in the affairs of churches (free exercise). To pretend that our government must be atheist is to deny our history, as well as our soul as a nation.