dirty rag

US News - OK, Kids; All Together Now - Mister Thorne

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.

Consider Indiana. 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.'

Consider Colorado. 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?