Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Supreme Court Hears Pledge Arguments

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday concerning the

appropriateness of the phrase “under God” in daily

recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.


This comes just two years after the passing of

a Wisconsin law requiring all schools to offer either the pledge or

national anthem.

Dr. Michael Newdow, who sued the California

public school district his 9–year-old daughter attends,

presented his arguments against the pledge on behalf of himself and

his daughter. 

“I am an atheist. I don’t believe

in God,” Newdow said.

When Justice Stephen Breyer suggested to

Newdow that the term “God” is used as a more

“broad” and “generic” term, Newdow

responded the phrase has more specific significance.

“It says ‘under God.’ That’s as purely

religious as you can get,” he said. “I don’t think that

I can include ‘under God’ to mean ‘no God.’

I deny the existence of God.”

Congress added the two-word phrase during the

Cold War as an attempt to separate America from “Godless


A San Francisco Court of Appeals ruled in

favor of Newdow last year, saying the phrase “under

God” renders the pledge a “profession of religious


Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who defended

the existing pledge, argued it, “is not what this Court has

said the Establishment Clause protects against.”

Brian Fahlings, senior trial attorney for the

American Family Association, agreed.

“An attempt to translate it into a

violation of the establishment clause is an absurdity,” he

said, adding that there is an “undeniable tradition in our

country of the acknowledgement of God.”

The case has prompted nationwide debate over

the pledge. Madison schools currently offer either the pledge or

the national anthem daily. Every time the pledge is read, so is a

disclaimer, reminding students “participation in the pledge

is voluntary.”

Bill Keys, president of the Madison School

Board, said controversy over the pledge started in 2001, when a

state law was passed requiring every school to offer the pledge or

national anthem every day.

“Within a week, there were parents,

teachers and students upset about having to be coerced into

participating or not participating,” Keys said, adding that

it’s hard to estimate how many students and teachers refrain from

reciting the pledge.

Keys has been active in defending

students’ right not to participate in the pledge, and says he

has received many letters and calls thanking him for taking this


The Court’s ruling will be anxiously

awaited by many. Because of criticism of the ninth circuit’s

ruling in a speech, Justice Antonin Scalia will not weigh in on the

case. This leaves the chance of a four to four tie, which would

automatically uphold the appeals court’s ruling.

“There’s a principle here,” Newdow

said at the end of his testimony, “and I’m hoping the court

will uphold this principle so that we can finally go back and have


American want to stand up, face the flag, place their hand over

their heart and pledge to one nation, indivisible, not divided by

religion, with liberty and justice for all.”

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