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Home » Archives » Legislative Issues » National Legislation Issues Archive » October 15, 2003 - United States Supreme Court Will Hear Case Involving the Pledge

October 15, 2003 - United States Supreme Court Will Hear Case Involving the Pledge

By Alan J. Reinach

The United States Supreme Court accepted today the appeal of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling regarding the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students could not be compelled to recite the Pledge, more than a decade before the phrase "under God" was added. The Supreme Court has also repeatedly ruled that students cannot be required to participate in public prayer.

Although the Supreme Court accepts only a small fraction of appeals, it was widely anticipated that it would take this case, given the intense emotional impact it has had on our country. While the mere taking of the case does not, by itself, indicate which way the court is leaning, it does suggest that some justices believe the lower court ruling should be re examined.

The lower court examined the facts surrounding Congress adding the phrase to the Pledge, and found that it was done for a religious purpose and effect, and therefore unconstitutional according to long established legal principles.

Yet the Supreme Court has upheld some overtly religious practices, such as legislative chaplains, because of their longstanding history in our nation. It remains to be seen whether the Pledge will qualify for such an historical exemption from the usual legal analysis requiring government to pursue only secular purposes and effects, rather than overtly religious ones.

Supporters of the phrase have, at times, argued that it is not inherently religious to acknowledge God in this manner. Yet the very passion they bring to the issue contradicts the assertion.

The issue is not whether school children are free to recite the phrase, "under God" As it stands now, even after the Ninth Circuit decision, any school child who wishes to recite the phrase is free to do so, although they may be out of sync with others who omit it. The schools are forbidden to lead out in religious activities, such as inclusion of the phrase.

While the battle rages over religion in the public schools, the broader issue receives no attention: that by turning our children and schools over to the state, we lose our freedom.

The very word "allegiance" is derived from the feudal term "liege", which is the duty owed by a vassal to a lord. To pledge allegiance to the country, in the strictest sense, turns our republican form of government upside down. It makes the citizen the servant of the state, instead of the government the servant of the people.

We continue to advocate a Christian education for all students, provided by Christians free of government entanglements. This is the best way to secure liberty, and a proper education for all children.

In our Christian schools, we are free to continue pledging allegiance to "one nation under God," if we so choose. Or we can pledge allegiance to God alone, without compromising our love of country.

These religious liberty newsflashes and legislative e.lerts are published by the Pacific Union Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty.

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