DENVER – A federal judge has issued a restraining order preventing Colorado school officials from requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance (search) at the beginning of each school day.
Last Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against a Colorado law that required public school students and their teachers to recite the 31-word Pledge, first adopted in 1892, in school.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock said the law discriminates against teachers by allowing students to opt out with a note from their parents. Teachers cannot opt out.
Babcock also said the law pits students who choose to say the Pledge against those who do not, and students against teachers.
"What is instructional about that?" Babcock asked. "You can't compel a citizen of the United States to recite the Pledge of Allegiance."
Civil liberties groups and those leading a lawsuit against the Pledge requirement said it violates students' and teachers' First Amendment (search) rights.
"By forcing an individual to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it violates the ideals of justice and liberty that the flag is meant to represent," said Mark Silverstein of the American Civil Liberties Union (search).
But others say the court ruling is plain wrong.
The ruling is "a gross insult to the patriotism of most Coloradoans," said State Senate President John Andrews, a Republican. "It's bad jurisprudence. I'm confident it will be overturned on appeal."
Gov. Bill Owens, who signed the bill, which took effect Aug. 6, mandating the Pledge be recited, is also named as defendant in the lawsuit.
"It's just another example of the loss of taxpayer money," Owens said, adding that the state statute clearly says no one is required to do anything.
"If you're a teacher, you have the ability to choose not to do it. For a student, they have to get their parents' permission," Owens said.
Ann Rosenblatt of Cherry Creek High School is one of nine students and teachers in Colorado who are challenging the law, with the help of the ACLU.
"I don't believe in pledging my allegiance to an inanimate object," Rosenblatt said.
Babcock said the law is "on ice" until the lawsuit is settled.
"We will continue to say the Pledge of Allegiance … and at this point, students have the option of saying the Pledge or not saying the Pledge without punishment," said Patrick Sandos, principal of Skinner Middle School.
Currently, 33 states require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance during the day; six merely encourage it; and a handful of others have a variety of guidelines on the issue. For example, in Missouri, students are to recite the Pledge at least once a week, whereas in Mississippi, it's once a month.
Last month, a federal court ruled a Pennsylvania law requiring all students to recite the Pledge or sing the national anthem violated students' freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce this fall whether it will consider another federal court ruling in San Francisco that said regular classroom recitations of the Pledge are unconstitutional because of the phrase "one nation, under God."
Fox News' Alicia Acuna and The Associated Press contributed to this report.