On 28 February,
the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its decision that leading
public school students in a pledge endorsing an official religious
belief is unconstitutional. Since then, many have been awaiting
an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Others are acting, not waiting.
On 20 March, the Indiana Senate passed legislation to provide "insurance"
for school teachers who want to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The bill's author, State Senator Johnny Nugent, said some teachers
are now afraid they'll be sued if they lead their students in the
Pledge. According to Nugent, the bill, which says that teachers
'may' lead students in the Pledge, "is like an insurance policy."
He figures that teachers will feel less threatened by the ACLU,
and the likes of it, once the bill becomes law.
The original bill
would have required teachers to lead students in the Pledge. It
would also have required that the new national slogan, "In God We
Trust," which endorses the controversial belief, be posted in every
public school classroom in Indiana. But the bill had no chance of
passing in its original form, and so 'must' became 'may.'
On 25 March, a senate committee approved a bill requiring that "In
God We Trust" be posted in all public buildings and public-school
classrooms. The bill provides that any taxpayer can file suit if
he or she finds a public building lacking the motto. Earlier this
year, the Colorado legislature passed a law requiring legislators
to recite the Pledge when they meet, and bills were introduced in
Utah and Texas requiring public-school students to recite the Pledge.
(See Religion in the News: January 2003 for details.)
Consider the Elk
Grove School District in California. That's the district where the
daughter of Michael Newdow (the atheist who brought his suit regarding
the Pledge of Allegiance) attended school and was (claims Newdow)
subject to the daily drone of a pledge that endorses the controversial
- yet official - proposition that there is one god and one god only.
On 3 March, the school district said it was preparing an appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moves to demolish
the 9th Circuit Court were revived on 6 March when Senator Lisa
Murkowski (Republican - Alaska) introduced a bill to divide the
circuit in two. Referring to the court's decision in Newdow v. U.S.
Congress, Murkowski said, "The recent history of the 9th Circuit
suggests a judicial activism that is close to the fringe of legal
reasoning." As evidence of the court's "illnesses," she added that,
"In 1997, 27 of the 28 cases brought to the Supreme Court [from
the 9th Circuit] were reversed - two-thirds by a unanimous vote."
She didn't bother to mention that during that same term, five other
circuit courts had all their rulings reversed.
On 20 March, the
U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution
- by a vote of 400 to 7 - condemning the decision by the 9th Circuit
Court in Newdow v. U.S. Congress. How's that for separation of power?