Legion prepared to challenge Pledge of Allegiance ruling The American Legion has prepared and is ready to file an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's largest wartime veterans organization, with 2.8 million members, will file the brief as soon as the U.S. government appeals a federal court's decision that reciting the ledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the words "under God."
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 in June 2002 that reciting the pledge in public schools is unconstitutional and recently reaffirmed its decision. Following the latest decision, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "We will defend the ability of Americans to declare their patriotism through the time-honored tradition of voluntarily reciting the pledge."
"When the 9th Circuit Court first ruled against the pledge, the American Legion promised it would see this case all the way to the Supreme Court," American Legion National Commander Ronald F. Conley said. "We have no intention of backing down now. The right of students across America to recite the Pledge of Allegiance deserves to be protected. The American Legion will do everything in its power to see that right is restored."
Once the United States files an appeal to the decision with the Supreme Court, the Legion will file its amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" brief, as it did the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. An amicus curiae brief is filed by an individual or group who is not a part of the litigation but believes that the court's decision may affect its interest.
Ten amicus curiae briefs previously were filed to overturn the 9th Circuit Court's decision, including one by the Legion on Aug. 19, 2002. All 10 were denied.
The 9th District's ruling came after Michael Newdow, an atheist and father of an elementary school girl, filed the case against the United States, Congress, California and two school districts. Newdow's daughter lives with her mother, who has sole custody of the young girl. The daughter attends public school in Elk Grove, CA, near Sacramento and according to reports regularly attends church.
Newdow's complaint alleged that, "his daughter is injured when she is compelled to 'watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God and that ours is one nation under God.'"
"Our national motto is: 'In God We Trust,' such a belief is a bedrock principle of America and is not an endorsement of any religion. The 9th Circuit Court is simply wrong and the 4.0 million men and women of the American Legion family will make their voices heard to insure that God is not expelled from the land," Conley said.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation inserting "under God" after the words "one nation." The American Legion supported the addition.
"It's a shame that the Pledge of Allegiance can be recited in any other country but our own, thanks to one wrongheaded decision by a few men in black robes," Conley said. "I am confident that our Supreme Court will have the wisdom to reverse this absurd call."