I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. One of the reasons I am allegiant to it is because of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Likewise, Judge Karlton in a California US District Court today found that it is unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with the words “under God” in it. Call me a strict constitutionalist, but I believe that it does not matter what Thomas Jefferson wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptists regarding the wall of separation between church and state. All that matters is what it says in our Constitution. Therefore, Judge Karlton was bound to uphold the Federal appeals court’s 2002 finding that reciting the Pledge in a public school is an unconstitutional “endorsement of religion.” Agreeing with them, I too omit the religious endorsement whenever I pledge allegiance to this republic.
Furthermore, the words “under God” were not part of the Pledge for most of its history anyway. It wasn’t until 1954, when Congress made a law adding the words to the Pledge (and again in 2002 when Congress made another law ratifying it) that they became part of the pledge. The key here is that Congress had to make a law for the religious establishment to come into effect. It seems there could be no more clear-cut violation of the Establishment Clause.
Thus, it was disappointing that the Supreme Court, in effect, punted when a decision on this matter was brought before them. Rather than settling the matter last year, the Court sent it back to the lower courts on a technicality. Five justices said that the father who brought the case on behalf of his daughter could not do so simply because the mother (not the father) had custody of the girl. Could it be that the real reason they shied away from the decision was because the only one they could reasonably reach would be so wildly unpopular with their conservative counterparts?
The case is sure to return to the Supreme Court, but the next time without the technicality to get out of making a decision. However, it’s unclear which way the Court will find because two of the three justices who previously stated their opinions on the merits of the case will not be sitting on the bench. The confirmation hearings also going on today made it no less clear how Judge Roberts will find (and few would argue that he will not be part of that decision). This is one nation that will have to wait a while longer to find out what the Pledge of Allegiance will sound like in your child’s class next school year.