RICHMOND, Va. – An appeals court on Wednesday upheld a Virginia law that requires public schools to lead a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (search), rejecting a claim that its reference to God was an unconstitutional promotion of religion.
A suit filed by Edward Myers (search) of Sterling, Va., a father of three, raised the objection to the phrase “one nation under God.”
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the pledge is a patriotic exercise, not an affirmation of religion similar to a prayer.
“Undoubtedly, the pledge contains a religious phrase, and it is demeaning to persons of any faith to assert that the words ‘under God’ contain no religious significance,” Judge Karen Williams wrote. “The inclusion of those two words, however, does not alter the nature of the pledge as a patriotic activity.”
Myers’ attorney, David Remes, said the 4th Circuit judges failed to examine the pledge’s effect on children.
“The problem is that young schoolchildren are quite likely to view the pledge as affirming the existence of God and national subordination to God,” Remes said. “The reference to God is one of the few things in the pledge that children understand.”
Remes said he and his client had not yet discussed whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdmann did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Three years ago, a federal appeals court in California sided with another father who had argued that requiring the Pledge of Allegiance (search) in public schools was unconstitutional because of the words “under God.” However, the U.S. Supreme Court (search) dismissed that case last year, saying Michael Newdow (search) lacked standing to sue on behalf of his young daughter because he didn’t have custody of her.
Newdow, an atheist, has since filed suit against four Sacramento-area school districts on behalf several atheist children and their families.