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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Judge rules Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional

Today, a federal court judge ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, the judge said that "the pledge’s reference to 'under God' violated school children’s right to be 'free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.'" The main person behind all of it is Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow (see his website here), whom some of you may know from the first time he tried to do this. That case got thrown out because he "does not have primary custody of his daughter." (from NSBA article). However, this time, he "has found eight like-minded students and custodial parents to act as fellow plaintiffs in his new lawsuit, Newdow v. Congress."

The NSBA article says that there is a "California law requiring school districts to ensure the pledge is being recited in classrooms" and the SF Chronicle article says that "California law requires that public elementary schools conduct 'appropriate patriotic exercises' at the beginning of the school day. " Actually, the SF Chronicle is correct. The State of California Education Code 52720 says (see p. 12) :

"In every public elementary school each day during the
school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class
or activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school
normally begin the schoolday, there shall be conducted appropriate
patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the
Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements
of this section."

And the ACLU says this on their website:

"Do we have to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

No. The courts say that students have the right to sit silently during the flag salute and Pledge of Allegiance as a protest against government policies (such as the death penalty or abolishing affirmative action) or in opposition to the words of the Pledge.

Almost 60 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that a compulsory flag salute (Pledge of Allegiance) violated an individual’s constitutional right to free expression. As long as you do not disrupt the pledge, you may refuse to participate. You do not need your parents’ permission to opt out of saying the pledge."

But if the students are NOT required to say the pledge, and the schools just have to have patriotic exercises, then WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?
SAYING THE PLEDGE IS VOLUNTARY. If you don't like the "under God" part, then DON'T SAY IT!

According to the Rio Linda School District website, "If the appeal isn’t granted by the Supreme Court then school students will have to suspend saying the Pledge of Allegiance or cease including the phrase "under God" when saying the Pledge of Allegiance."
Wouldn't not being able to say the pledge of allegiance or the words "Under God" be much more restrictive and violate more rights?

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