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"Under God" stays- U.S. Supreme Court

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 16 June 2004, 00:04 GMT]
Supreme Court of the U.S. Monday unanimously struck down a challenge against the phrase "Under God" in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance filed by Michael Newdow, an atheist father from California. Mr.Newdow claimed that his right to influence his daughter's religious views was infringed by the daily recitations in school of the pledge "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Teachers lead children across the U.S. to recite the 31-word Pledge of Allegience daily at schools.

The First Amendment guarantees that government will not "establish" religion, wording that has come to mean a general ban on overt government sponsorship of religion in public schools and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court's decision, however, fell short of a clear endorsement of pledge's constitutionality as the ruling was based exclusively on procedural grounds that Mr.Newdow lacked legal standing to sue.

The legal battle will likely continue.

The Ninth Circuit Court based in San Francisco ruled two years ago it is unconstitutional for tax-supported schools to have children say the Pledge. The Court of Appeals placed great weight on the fact that Congress inserted the words "under God" into the pledge in 1954 as a means of advancing religion at a time when the nation was engaged in a battle against the doctrines of atheistic communism.

A surprising number of Americans felt that the judges had a good point--that the reference to God in the pledge was an inappropriate endorsement of religion on the part of the government. Atheists and agnostics, they pointed out, were offended by this unnecessary reference to God in a patriotic pledge, as were adherents of exotic religions who may not worship a monotheistic God. Why should they be required to endorse the religious doctrines of the majority?

Conservatives, on the other hand, saw the decision as just another example of a liberal court run amok, imposing the personal views of judges on the Constitution in defiance of tradition, precedent, and common sense. Some called for the impeachment of the judges who had issued the ruling. Even the liberal editors of the New York Times felt that the ruling was imprudent and impolitic.

The Senate passed a resolution by a vote of 99-0 expressing support for the Pledge of Allegiance and its reference to "one nation under God." Most observers looked for a decisive reversal from the Supreme Court.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931).

In its original form it read:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added against Bellamy's wishes, as he wanted the pledge to be used by any citizen of any country. At this time it read:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, and fifty-two years after its original publication, Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration.


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