SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 14, 2005
(CBS/AP) A federal judge in San Francisco has declared it unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
The judge, ruling in the second attempt by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow to have the pledge removed from classrooms, found that the pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates school children’s right to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2001 that it was unconstitutional for the pledge to be recited in public schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out that case, also brought by Newdow, ruling that he lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter he sued on behalf of.
This time, Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed his lawsuit on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue.
Karlton said he would sign a restraining order preventing the recitation of the pledge at the Elk Grove Unified, Rio Linda and Elverta Joint Elementary school districts, where the plaintiffs’ children attend.
The decision sets up another showdown over the pledge in schools.
The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent, the group would go to the Supreme Court.
“It’s a way to get this issue to the Supreme Court for a final decision to be made,” said fund attorney Jared Leland.
Newdow, reached at his home, was not immediately prepared to comment.
Â©MMV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.