If an online petition is a good barometer of public sentiment, Americans don’t want the courts messing with their Pledge of Allegiance and national motto, “In God We Trust.”

Since the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed Friday its earlier ruling that “under God” in
the Pledge is unconstitutional in public schools, more than 200,000 citizens have swamped an online petition to add their
voices to the outcry over the ruling. The petition gained 75,000 electronic signatures in the 48 hours
directly following Friday’s decision.

In July, the American Family Association, or AFA, launched WePledge.com, which seeks a constitutional amendment to protect the Pledge and national motto. The effort quickly gained about 800,000 signatures; then interest dropped off. The nonprofit organization that promotes traditional family values now reports nearly 1.3 million people have endorsed the petition.

AFA founder Don Wildmon told WorldNetDaily the ruling has touched a nerve.

“First of all, that ruling last summer was a shocker,” Wildmon said. “Then the general feeling was the 24-member panel would overturn it. And they didn’t! So we sent out a quick alert late Friday and it
caught on, and it’s been going great guns ever since. We’re getting about 7,000 signatures an hour.”

The goal is to collect 10 million signatures. At that point, AFA plans to present the petitions to the appropriate members of the House and Senate to get amendment legislation introduced.

The proposed amendment reads:

“The first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States shall not be
construed to prohibit the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, which shall be, ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one
Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

“The first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States shall not be
construed to prohibit the recitation or use of the national motto, which shall be, ‘In God we trust.'”

Legislation was introduced in the last Congress, but died when the session ended.

“The Pledge of Allegiance is a long-standing tradition in our country. It is a way for us to give a patriotic salute to our nation and the people who fought to protect the freedoms we enjoy today,” Rep. “Chip” Pickering, R-Miss., declared after introducing a constitutional amendment to guarantee
Americans the right to recite the Pledge in public and private places.

Pickering’s Senate counterpart and fellow Mississippian Sen. Trent Lott introduced a similar measure.

Wildmon told WorldNetDaily House members are currently working to introduce a new bill.

In the meantime, the Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of a non-binding resolution that defines the Pledge as a “fully constitutional expression of patriotism.”

“What this is all about is the religious right is afraid of losing their god. That’s what this is all about,” Michael Newdow, the Sacramento atheist-activist who filed the case on behalf of himself and his
8-year-old daughter, told WorldNetDaily last summer.

As WND reported, Newdow filed his case
against Congress for inserting the phrase “under God” into the Pledge in 1954 and against the Elk Grove Unified School District in Elk Grove, Calif., for its policy to have teachers lead students in the recitation of the Pledge in class.

In his complaint, Newdow argued the government’s use of the words “under God” infringes upon his right as a parent to “inculcate in his daughter … the atheistic beliefs he finds persuasive.”

The mother of the girl, Sandra Banning, unsuccessfully sought to have the case dismissed. As WND reported, Banning maintains her daughter is a practicing Christian who is not harmed by reciting “one nation under God.”

The San Francisco-based three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 last June that the Pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public classrooms because it amounts to a government endorsement of religion.

The decision prevents public schoolchildren from reciting the Pledge in the nine western states covered by the San Francisco court – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The ruling was met with widespread furor, including from President George W. Bush who called it “ridiculous.” It also sparked a flurry of friend-of-the-court brief filings from an assortment of organizations and 17 members of Congress urging the federal court to reconsider its decision.

In its appeal, the Justice Department argued the Supreme Court has already determined the words “under God” in the Pledge are among “many ceremonial references to our religious heritage and do not establish a religious faith.”

The case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit issued a 90-day stay on its ruling, which puts it on hold while the school district files its appeal to the high court. It has promised to do so by the end of the month.

Ron Barrier, communications director for the nonprofit American Atheists, said that if the Bush administration seeks to keep the case alive by demanding a Supreme Court hearing, “it is squandering public tax money on behalf of sectarian religion.”

“The Pledge should be something that brings Americans together, and doesn’t divide us on the basis of religious belief or disbelief,” said Barrier in a statement.

In the meantime, another Internet petition drive to defend “God Bless America!” continues to gain ground with more than 9,200 signatures gathered.

WND reported the Rutherford Institute posted the petition to enlist support for its defense of a New Jersey honor guardsman fired after offering the blessing at veterans’ grave-side services.

The international, nonprofit civil-liberties organization also aims to press the White House and Congress to take a stand on the issue.

“It’s a dark day in the life of our nation when an American can’t ask God’s blessing on this country,” reads the petition.

The Rutherford Institute hopes to amass 15,000 signatures by Mar. 21 so that it can send the petitions to Congress by Mar. 31.

Previous articles:

State digs in heels over ‘God Bless America’

Petition posted to defend ‘God Bless America!’

Court refuses to reconsider Pledge ruling

Pressure on to rehear Pledge case

Pledge mom files motion

Public pressure mounts against Pledge ruling

Pledge mom fights to keep ‘under God’

Pledge case to be reheard?

Pledge judge protested

Pledge battle all about dad?

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