.- The national office of the Knights of Columbus has announced that the group plans to immediately appeal a decision, given earlier this week by a California judge, that the words âunder Godâ render the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The Knights were among the defendants in the case of Newdow vs. Congress of the United States, et al--the decision of which has angered religious groups nationwide.
District Judge Lawrence Karlton said in his Wednesday decision that the phrase violates a studentâs right to be ``free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.''
The ruling effects three school districts in Sacramento county, California.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said that "if freedom of religion in America means anything at all, it means that it's just as constitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance â complete with the words 'under God' â as it is to read aloud the Declaration of Independence.â
He said that, âThey both express the same truth: that our fundamental rights come from God, our creator, and not from government. To suggest that the language of the First Amendment prohibits the simple statement of that truth is to stand the Constitution on its head."
The Knights of Columbus say that they were instrumental in persuading congress to insert the words, âunder Godâ into the pledge in 1954. Their request to be defendants in the Newdow case this year was granted by the court.
The 1.7 million member Knights of Columbus are being represented in the case by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.