Court rules against
Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2002
By TIM REEVES
A federal court ruling Wednesday, just one week before the July 4th holiday, has drawn the ire of a nation still reeling from terrorist attacks 10 months ago.
A ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The decision was spurred on by a the phrase in the pledge which reads "under God."
It in effect would ban the saying of the pledge during any school-related functions.
"This is ridiculous," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer quoted the president as saying Wednesday. He said the Justice Department would look into the matter.
Although the decision does not affect Alabama schools, local and state officials have been quick to voice their strong opposition.
"I am just shocked," said Chilton County Superintendent of Education Mildred Ellison. "We are a law abiding organization and if the courts rule the pledge to be unconstitutional then we will follow the law, but until then we will continue saying the pledge."
Schools in Chilton County begin the day with children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a moment of silence, a practice which Chilton County Board of Education attorney John Hollis Jackson said was partially organized by the help of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor.
"We had some assistance from the Attorney General’s Office and the attorney general himself in coming up with this policy, but we were not the only ones who do this on a daily basis," Jackson said.
The court ruled the pledge couldn’t be recited in public schools because the phrase "under God" endorses religion. In the 2-1 decision, the appellate court ruled reciting the phrase was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
The Associated Press said, if it stands, the ruling means schoolchildren in the nine Western states covered by the court would not be allowed to recite the pledge.
The phrase "under God" was not originally in the pledge, but later added by Congress in 1954.
"I am shocked and outraged by this ridiculous, ignorant and unconstitutional decision," said U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala. "Now, more than ever, America must embrace the traditions which symbolize our strength and unity."
Riley’s comments came yesterday as he introduced legislation on the House floor on Washington, condemning the court’s action.
The resolution reads in part, "Congress opposes the ruling of a Federal appeals court … because the Pledge is a deeply embedded symbol of our nation and the freedoms we hold so dear."
The House will likely vote the motion on next month.
U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., called the court’s ruling "stupid."
"Every normal, intelligent American will immediately recognize the total stupidity of today’s ruling," Bachus said. "The judges clearly erred. They are not just wrong, they are dead wrong."
The Christian Coalition of Alabama issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying other precious documents and traditions may be targeted if this decision is upheld.
"Portions of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution may next be targeted," said Christian Coalition of Alabama President John Giles. "I am afraid that if this decision is upheld by the appellate process, it will bring about a national uprising."
Ellison added she was disappointed by the news, especially in light of recent events.
"I thought this nation had come together after the attacks of Sept. 11," she said. "I guess not."