A federal judge in New Hampshire has thrown out an atheist activist’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Hanover, New Hampshire public schools. He reasoned that the Pledge is voluntary and is not a prayer.
Activist Michael Newdow’s suit was dismissed by Judge Steven McAuliffe in response to a motion of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The motion was filed on behalf of three Hanover families and the Knights of Columbus, the Becket Fund reports.
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, led the effort to add the phrase “under God” to the Pledge 55 years ago.
The Becket Fund argued that the phrase conveys a foundational idea in American law and political philosophy: that human rights are inalienable and that the power of the state is limited because those rights exist prior to the state and come from a source beyond it.
The same argument was made to the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar lawsuit also brought by Newdow. The decision in that case is still pending.
“Judge McAuliffe couldn’t have gotten it more right when he said that the Pledge is not a prayer – it is an ‘affirmation of adherence to the principles for which the Nation stands.’ And one of those principles is that our inalienable rights are not created by the State but endowed by a Creator,” said Becket Fund president Kevin “Seamus” Hasson.