A federal appeals court has ruled that a New Hampshire Patriot Act requiring the “voluntary” recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance does not force religion on students. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had argued that even a so-called voluntary recitation of the words “under God” violated the Constitution and made outcasts of students unwilling to participate.
The panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Friday rejected the claim that exposing children to group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violated their constitutional rights. The judges, a Clinton nominee, a George W. Bush nominee and an Obama nominee, agreed the pledge references religion, but they said its purpose is to encourage patriotism. The ruling affirms a 2009 ruling by U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe at the federal court in Concord. “In reciting the Pledge, students promise fidelity to our flag and our nation, not to any particular God, faith or church,” wrote Chief Judge Sandra Lynch. “The New Hampshire School Patriot Act’s primary effect is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism through a pledge to the flag as a symbol of the nation.”
Christianist website World Net Daily hailed the decision with this headline: “Court: Constitution ‘does not require complete separation of church and state’.” In 1954 the words “under God” were added to the Pledge after the Knights Of Columbus pressured members of Congress to make the change.