God is safe in San Francisco, at least for now.
In a decision that certainly came down on the side of common sense, the typically liberal-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that The words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are an appeal to patriotism, not religion, and do not violate the separation of church and state. Worthy of note is that in 2002 the same court had declared the pledge unconstitutional.
In a separate ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco upheld the placement of the national motto, "In God We Trust," on coins and currency. The language is patriotic and ceremonial, not religious, the court said.
Both suits were filed by Michael Newdow, a Sacramento atheist who has filed numerous challenges to government-sponsored religious invocations.
His previous suit against the Pledge of Allegiance reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. Without deciding the constitutional issue, the court said Newdow lacked legal standing to challenge the pledge on behalf of his daughter, because the child's mother, Newdow's former partner, had legal custody.
Newdow then refiled the suit on behalf of parents who had custody of their children and objected to the daily schoolroom recitals of "under God," which was added to the pledge by a 1954 federal law.
Newdow argued that the reference to divinity in a daily vow of allegiance violated the rights of atheists and agnostics and amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The appeals court disagreed in a 2-1 ruling.
"The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our republic was founded," Judge Carlos Bea said in the majority opinion.
He said "one nation under God" referred to "our founding fathers' belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."
"Congress' ostensible and predominant purpose was to inspire patriotism," said Bea, who was joined by Judge Dorothy Nelson. "The phrase 'one nation under God' does not turn this patriotic exercise into a religious activity."
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a member of the three-judge panel that ruled the same language unconstitutional in 2002, dissented from today's ruling.
The 1954 law adding "under God" to the pledge was "designed to promote religion and to indoctrinate schoolchildren with a religious belief," Reinhardt said.
"The teaching of religious views is the function of the family and the church, not the state and the public school system," he wrote.
The same panel upheld "In God We Trust" in a 3-0 ruling. Reinhardt said he disagreed but was compelled to follow the precedent the court had just established in the Pledge case.
Bea said the Ninth Circuit upheld the use of the motto on coins in 1970. Although the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, he said, the court cited "In God We Trust" in a 1989 case as a "reference to our religious heritage."
I believe in this instance it is only fitting to say: Thank God for this dose of common sense.
More discussion at Memeorandum, including a link to The L. A. Times that has some outlandish comments, like the one that says, "I Never say that pledge, and I certainly have no allegiance to the terrorist country it refers to!"
I'm sure that anonymous commenter is also not happy about the fact that they have the freedom to express themselves in such a way.
God Bless America.