Published March 11, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments on Thursday that the phrases violate the separation of church and state.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who claimed the references to God disrespect his religious beliefs.
"The Pledge is constitutional," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded."
The same court ruled in Newdow's favor in 2002 after he sued his daughter's school district for having students recite the pledge at school.
That lawsuit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, but the high court ruled that Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the suit because he didn't have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case.
So Newdow, who is a doctor and lawyer, filed an identical challenge on behalf of other parents who objected to the recitation of the pledge at school. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Newdow's favor, ruling that the pledge was unconstitutional.
"I want to be treated equally," Newdow said when he argued the case before the 9th Circuit in December 2007. He added that supporters of the phrase "want to have their religious views espoused by the government."
In a separate 3-0 ruling Thursday, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto "In God We Trust" on coins and currency, saying that the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious.
Reached on his cell phone, Newdow said he hadn't been aware that the appeals court had ruled against him Thursday.
"Oh man, what a bummer," he said.
Newdow said he would comment further after he had read the decisions.