Case vs 'Under God'

Manila Bulletin, October 17, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Case vs 'Under God'


(Editors note: The US Supreme Court faces a dilemma that concerns the nation, as discussed in this article.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio Last Tuesday (Oct. 14) the US Supreme Court agreed to decide the governments appeal whether the Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation of church and state by allowing students to recite the phrase one nation, under God in public schools.

Culture war

According to the director of ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) the case will dwarf anything else the Court will do this term, putting it in the middle of the culture wars going on in this country, exactly where the justices dont want to be.

In 2000, a California father, Michael Newdow (an atheist), caused a dispute with his daughters public elementary school. Theres a state law requiring that the Pledge be recited once a day at public elementary schools, although no pupil was required to join in.

Favoring religion

Newdow, a physician (with a law degree), calls the state law unconstitutional because the phrase under God invokes religion.

He lost the case in the US District court, but on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, a three-judge panel voting 2 to 1 agreed with Newdow and ordered that children in public schools could not recite under God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Bush administration has asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate courts decision, arguing: Not every reference to God amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

God on the dollar bills

The Justice Department refers to the phrase as an acknowledgement of our nations religious heritage, no different from the motto In God we trust that appears on the US dollar currency.

Origin of the Pledge

Controversy has shrouded the Pledge from the start when it appeared in the Sept. 8, 1892 issue of Youths Companion magazine. Two magazine staffers claimed its authorship. In 1939, the United States Flag Association declared Francis Bellamy the author, and the Library of Congress concurred in 1957.

Congress mandated two wording changes: Substituting the flag of the United States of America for my flag in 1923 and adding under God in 1954.

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