An official in a small tourist town sued his colleagues Friday, saying they're unfairly targeting him for recall over his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (search) at board meetings.
Estes Park town trustee David Habecker (search), who describes himself as agnostic, says the words "under God" in the pledge violate his religious beliefs and are at odds with the separation of church and state, according to his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.
The lawsuit says Habecker exercises his First Amendment (search) right to religious freedom and sits during Town Board meetings while other members recite the pledge.
Habecker's recall election is scheduled for Feb. 15. Several board members helped organize the recall committee, saying voters have lost confidence in Habecker's ability to represent patriotism and "common decency."
"He has his rights, and so do we," said committee member Dewey Shanks. "We're at war. And I don't think now is the time to be fighting over this. He shouldn't have brought it up at this time."
Habecker sued the recall committee, the town, the board of trustees and several officials in Estes Park, a town of about 5,500 residents about 60 miles northwest of Denver that is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, asked a federal judge to stop the recall election until after the lawsuit is resolved.
The lawsuit says Habecker, who has served on the town board for 12 years, is patriotic and doesn't oppose the pledge's meaning.
The board began reciting the pledge in May. Habecker, 59, initially recited the pledge except for the words "under God," but he later decided to remain seated.
In 2003, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the words "under God" made it an unconstitutional blending of church and state for public school students to recite the pledge. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case in June, saying it was invalid because the father who filed it did not have custody of his elementary school-aged daughter.