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'Under God' in pledge ruled unconstitutional
September 15, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday, a decision that could put the issue on track for another round of Supreme Court arguments.
The case was brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the pledge was rejected last year on procedural grounds.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled the pledge's reference to one nation ''under God'' violates schoolchildren's right to be ''free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.''
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional in public schools.
The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year, saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter, whom he sued on behalf of.
Order affects 3 school districts
Newdow, an attorney and a doctor, filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue.
Karlton, ruling in Sacramento, said he would sign a restraining order preventing the recitation of the pledge at the school districts in Sacramento County where the plaintiffs' children attend. The order wouldn't extend beyond those districts unless it is affirmed by the 9th Circuit, in which case it could apply to nine western states, or the Supreme Court, which would apply to all states.
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