Judges Ban Pledge of Allegiance From Schools, Citing 'Under God’ (NYT, 2002)
A federal appeals court here declared today that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because the phrase ‘‘one nation under God’’ violates the separation of church and state.
In a decision that drew protest across the political spectrum, a three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the pledge, as it exists in federal law, could not be recited in schools because it violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against a state endorsement of religion.
In addition, the ruling, which will certainly be appealed, turned on the phrase ‘‘under God’’ which Congress added in 1954 to one of the most hallowed patriotic traditions in the nation.
From a constitutional standpoint, those two words, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote in the 2-to-1 decision, were just as objectionable as a statement that ‘‘we are a nation ‘under Jesus,’ a nation ‘under Vishnu,’ a nation ‘under Zeus,’ or a nation ‘under no god,’ because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion.’’