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Thursday, June 27, 2002


In San Francisco a US Federal Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has just ruled it is unconstitutional to ask schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance vowing fealty to one nation "under God." The decision overturned a 1954 Act of the U.S Congress that added "under God" to the pledge, saying the words violated the basic Constitutional tenet of separation of church and state. Apparently Congress amended the official version of the pledge in 1954 to add the words "under God" since the then President Dwight Eisenhower said it would demonstrate "the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." The appeal has been brought by a California athiest who resents that his non-believing daughter is made to feel a second class citizen every morning. But this problem is much bigger. Given the evident diversity of the US today, which God are they under, and in any event why only one, does a true American have to be monotheist, what about Gaia. Or couldn't they insert a clause specifically disavowing that the American god has uniquely masculine characteristics.

No the decision is a good one. Not because it attacks religion, bonobos after all have no recognisable political partisanship nor do they favour one religion over another, but because it asserts the principle that religious belief is a private and not a state matter.

The court, ruling on a challenge lodged by a California atheist, said the pledge "impermissibly takes a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God."

"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical ... to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,"' the court said in its majority opinion by Judge Alfred Goodwin, who was appointed to the appellate court by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

Legal analysts said the decision, the first of its kind in the country, would almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which begins its sessions with the words "God save the United States and the honorable court." The case turned on interpretations of the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which requires that Congress "make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The Establishment Clause has already led to a series of debates over the separation of church and state in the United States, with cases ranging from publicly-funded Christmas displays to school prayer. But in addressing the Pledge of Allegiance, the current case takes on one of the country's strongest patriotic traditions.
Source: Yahoo NewsLINK

This case has added importance raising as it does the common value core of our modern social identities at a time when similar oaths of allegiance are being proposed for new immigrants in, for example, the UK and Germany. The fundamental privacy of religious belief, and the right to non discrimination and tolerance in the area of religion seems basic to what should be important to us.

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