A San Francisco court ruled Thursday that the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
The decision, made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, reverses a 2002 rejection of the phrase which was backed at the time by atheist activist Dr. Michael Nedow. Non-profit civil rights law firm the Beckett Fund began to argue the 2002 decision with the Court two years ago.
“The Ninth Circuit finally stood up for the Pledge,” said Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson of the Becket Fund who argued the case. “The Court has just said what was self-evident to Thomas Jefferson and the signers of our Declaration of Independence in 1776 – our rights are unalienable precisely because they come not from the State, but from the Creator.”
The Court was influenced in its ruling by the Beckett Fund's argument for the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the pledge. The non-profit group stated that Congress' purpose in devising the pledge was “to underscore the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers that God granted certain inalienable rights to the people which the government cannot take away.”
The Beckett Fund also acted in the case on behalf of parents and schoolchildren in the Sacramento public school district as well as the Knights of Columbus who spearheaded the initiative to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955.
“This decision is a victory for common sense,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said on Thursday. “Today, the Court got it absolutely right: recitation of the Pledge is a patriotic exercise, not a religious prayer. Best of all, the Court said that the words 'under God' add a 'note of importance which a Pledge to our Nation ought to have and which in our culture ceremonial references to God arouse.' Every reasonable person knows that, and today's decision is a breath of fresh air from a court system that has too often seemed to be almost allergic to public references to God.”
“This is a very good day for America,” Anderson added.
In their decision on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit also asserted that because saying the pledge is voluntary, efforts by the plaintiffs to remove certain parts of it is an attempt to suppress the free speech of others. “What is at issue is not saying the Pledge or affirming a belief in God. What is at issue is whether Roechild (Dr. Newdow’s anonymous client) can prevent other students, who have no such objection, from saying the Pledge,” stated the court.