The New York Times


August 11, 2005

Court Rejects Challenge to Pledge of Allegiance

( AP ) A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday upheld a Virginia law that requires public schools to lead a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, rejecting a claim that its reference to God was an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

A suit filed by Edward Myers of Sterling, Va., a father of three, raised the objection to the phrase ''one nation under God.'' Mr. Myers, a Mennonite, argued, ''The combination of God and country approaches a civic religion that is in competition with my religion.''

But the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the pledge is a patriotic exercise, not an affirmation of religion similar to a prayer.

''Undoubtedly, the pledge contains a religious phrase, and it is demeaning to persons of any faith to assert that the words 'under God' contain no religious significance,'' Judge Karen Williams wrote. ''The inclusion of those two words, however, does not alter the nature of the pledge as a patriotic activity.''

Mr. Myers's lawyer, David Remes, said the panel had failed to examine the pledge's effect on children.

''The problem is that young school children are quite likely to view the pledge as affirming the existence of God and national subordination to God,'' Mr. Remes said.

Three years ago, a federal appeals court in California sided with another father who challenged the pledge as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court dismissed that case last year, however, saying that the father, Michael Newdow, lacked standing to sue on behalf of his young daughter because he did not have custody of her.

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