At least 40 members of Congress and more than 80,000 Americans are urging a federal appeals court to uphold the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase “under God,” according to a constitutional law group.
The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit today. According to the group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is appealing a lower-court decision that the pledge shouldn’t be removed from New Hampshire schools because it embraces patriotism, not religion.
“There is absolutely no legal reason to strike the words ‘under God’ from the pledge and reject this time-honored tradition,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, which filed an amicus brief in the initial case in federal district court. “Once again this is nothing more than another futile attempt to rewrite history – a legal challenge that has no merit and should be rejected by the appeals court.”
The ACLJ filed the amicus brief on behalf of 42 members of Congress: Sens. Sam Brownback and James Inhofe and 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Reps. Robert Aderholt, Todd Akin, Rodney Alexander, Gresham Barrett, Roscoe Bartlett, Rob Bishop, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, Ken Calvert, Tom Cole, John Abney Culberson, Mario Diaz-Balart, Jeff Flake, Randy Forbes, Trent Franks, Scott Garrett, Phil Gingrey, Jeb Hensarling, Wally Herger, Peter Hoekstra, Walter Jones, Steve King, Jack Kingston, John Kline, Frank Lucas, John McHugh, Donald Manzullo, Jim Marshall, Gary Miller, Jeff Miller, Sue Wilkins Myrick, Mike Pence, Joseph Pitts, Pete Sessions, John Shadegg, John Shimkus, Mark Souder, John Sullivan, Lee Terry and Joe Wilson.
More than 80,000 Americans have signed on to the ACLJ’s Committee to Protect “Under God” – including parents of children who attend public schools and wish to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety.
In the amicus brief, the ACLJ states that “including the words ‘one Nation under God’ in the Pledge does not violate the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
“These words echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the truth that our freedoms come from God,” it states. “These words were placed in the pledge to reaffirm America’s unique understanding of this truth. The United States is different from nations who recognize no higher authority than the state. While the First Amendment affords atheists freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact religious references in every area of public life to suit atheistic sensibilities.”
The ACLJ argues that the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “strategy to purge all religious observances and references from American public life must not be permitted to advance. If plaintiffs are successful, it will undoubtedly embolden further challenges to other religious expressions in government venues. …”
Last September, a federal district court refused the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s efforts to target a New Hampshire statute that allowed students to freely recite the pledge at school. The court ruled that the statute has “a secular legislative purpose.” It also stated that the statute 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 ACLJ reported the New Hampshire case comes only a month after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the pledge and the national motto – “In God We Trust” – displayed on U.S. currency.
In the case of the pledge, the federal appeals court concluded that “the pledge is one of allegiance to our republic, not of allegiance to God or to any religion. Furthermore, Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose when it enacted and amended the Pledge over time was patriotic, not religious.”
The ACLJ reported that it filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit in the national motto case representing nearly 50 members of Congress.
The ACLJ is also fighting to protect displays of the national motto and pledge at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. The group represents 50 lawmakers in its amicus brief and is asking a federal court to uphold the constitutionality of the displays.