Supreme Court ducks 'under God' issue in pledge case - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
June 15, 2004

Supreme Court ducks 'under God' issue in pledge case

-15/6/04

Millions of American children will continue to start their school day by pledging allegiance to "one nation, under God" after the US supreme court yesterday dismissed a challenge to the oath from the father of a 10-year-old girl.

Michael Newdow, a Californian atheist, had sued Congress, President Bush and others to remove the words from the pledge.

He argued that the phrase contradicted the first amendment of the US constitution, which guarantees that government will not "establish" religion.

Christians who are encouraging "post-Christendom" perspectives which urge the church to embrace its growing position on the margins of society, and depart from the idea of the "Christian" nation, will be sad that the supreme court appeared to dodge the issue of the separation of church and state.

The court chose to dismiss the case on the grounds that the father, who is in the midst of a protracted custody case with the girl's mother, had not established the legal right to speak for the child. The mother, Sandra Banning, told the court that she had no objection to the wording of the pledge.

Three justices said the use of "under God" is constitutional. Five decided the case on the custody issue and said nothing about the pledge. Justice Antonin Scalia took no part in the case, after saying publicly that he supports the pledge.

The ruling means that public school children can, for now, recite the pledge. It also keeps the justices out of a heated discussion over church-state relations that threatened to thrust them once again into election-year politics.

"When hard questions of domestic relations are sure to affect the outcome, the prudent course is for the federal court to stay its hand rather than reach out to resolve a weighty question of federal constitutional law," one of the members of the court, Justice John Paul Stevens, wrote in his judgment.

The justices were credited with good timing, handing down their verdict on Flag Day in the US. The oath begins with the words "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

The case grew out of an appeals court ruling two years ago which said that the wording was unconstitutional. But the US solicitor general, Theodore Olson, argued in court that the wording had more to do with history and ceremony than the direct promotion of religion.

Supreme Court ducks 'under God' issue in pledge case

-15/6/04

Millions of American children will continue to start their school day by pledging allegiance to "one nation, under God" after the US supreme court yesterday dismissed a challenge to the oath from the father of a 10-year-old girl.

Michael Newdow, a Californian atheist, had sued Congress, President Bush and others to remove the words from the pledge.

He argued that the phrase contradicted the first amendment of the US constitution, which guarantees that government will not "establish" religion.

Christians who are encouraging "post-Christendom" perspectives which urge the church to embrace its growing position on the margins of society, and depart from the idea of the "Christian" nation, will be sad that the supreme court appeared to dodge the issue of the separation of church and state.

The court chose to dismiss the case on the grounds that the father, who is in the midst of a protracted custody case with the girl's mother, had not established the legal right to speak for the child. The mother, Sandra Banning, told the court that she had no objection to the wording of the pledge.

Three justices said the use of "under God" is constitutional. Five decided the case on the custody issue and said nothing about the pledge. Justice Antonin Scalia took no part in the case, after saying publicly that he supports the pledge.

The ruling means that public school children can, for now, recite the pledge. It also keeps the justices out of a heated discussion over church-state relations that threatened to thrust them once again into election-year politics.

"When hard questions of domestic relations are sure to affect the outcome, the prudent course is for the federal court to stay its hand rather than reach out to resolve a weighty question of federal constitutional law," one of the members of the court, Justice John Paul Stevens, wrote in his judgment.

The justices were credited with good timing, handing down their verdict on Flag Day in the US. The oath begins with the words "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

The case grew out of an appeals court ruling two years ago which said that the wording was unconstitutional. But the US solicitor general, Theodore Olson, argued in court that the wording had more to do with history and ceremony than the direct promotion of religion.

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