Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pledge of Allegiance ruled unconstitutional IV

The NYT gives us more detail on the decision reached by a federal judge declaring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violated the constitutional separation of church and state. In reality, the judge apparently made no such declaration. He simply said that his hands were tied because the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had so ruled in 2002. His ruling affects only the schools in Sacramento County, California.

Since the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled in 2004 that the Pledge did not violate the separation of church and state because it is a "patriotic exercise and not a religious exercise", the Supreme Court will have to eventually clear up the discrepancy between the Courts of Appeal.

The judge in the latest California case, Judge Lawrence S. Karlton of the United States District Court for Northern California, did not give the plaintiffs, led by atheist Dr. Michael A. Newdow, all that they wanted. He refused to accept their position that hearing the Pledge recited at school board meetings made them feel like "outsiders". He said they were free to come and go.

So what does this mean? Is the judge saying that the Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation between church and state only when one cannot escape out of earshot? Or is the judge saying that the Pledge violates the separation of church and state when school children are involved but not when adults are involved? I be confused as to exactly what this ruling means.

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