WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2009 ( – Last week a federal court in New Hampshire dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “under God.”

In 2007, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, represented by Michael Newdow, sued two New Hampshire public school districts and Congress on behalf of several parents and students who objected to the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in school.  Specifically, the lawsuit challenged the 1954 addition of the words “under God” and the practice of reciting the Pledge in public schools as a patriotic exercise.

On Sept. 30, Chief Judge Steven McAuliffe issued an order rejecting the Plaintiffs' arguments and dismissing the complaint.  The court applied several different Establishment Clause tests and held that the school districts had not violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

In keeping with Supreme Court precedent, the court reviewed the phrase “under God” in the context of the rest of the Pledge rather than in isolation. The court declared, “The New Hampshire Pledge statute has a secular legislative purpose. It was enacted to enhance instruction in the Nation's history, and foster a sense of patriotism.  Its primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion. It does not foster excessive government involvement with religion.”

The court also stated that the pledge statute implemented by the New Hampshire school districts does not have the effect of coercing children to support or participate in religion or its exercise. (Read the full opinion here)

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) which had filed an amicus brief in the case, said that last Wednesday's decision was “sound and well reasoned.” 

The ACLJ's friend-of-the-court brief argued that the Pledge and the phrase “one Nation, under God” do not violate the Constitution, saying the words “simply echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the undeniable truth that our freedoms come from God.”  The brief contended:  “These words were placed in the Pledge of Allegiance for the express purpose of reaffirming America's unique understanding of this truth. The United States is different from nations who recognize no higher authority than the State.” 

In its amicus brief, the ACLJ represented 51 members of the 110th Congress including three Senators.

“We're extremely pleased with the sound and well reasoned decision issued by the court – a decision that rejects another attempt to rewrite history by targeting the Pledge and the phrase 'under God,'” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.  “The lawsuit was dismissed and the court concluded that the New Hampshire statute giving students an opportunity to voluntarily recite the Pledge in school is constitutional and consistent with the First Amendment.”


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