US school pledge unconstitutional, judge says

Californian federal Judge said the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento, California, today said that a school district's policy requiring the pledge with the phrase ‘under God’ is unconstitutional. The case was brought by Michael Newdow, an atheist who had previously sued to challenge the use of the phrase.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year vacated a decision that said a California school district violated the Constitution's separation of church and state clause by requiring teachers to lead the pledge.

The justices didn't decide whether the pledge was constitutional, instead ruling that Newdow lacked the right to bring the challenge. Newdow overcame the hurdle by including students who live in the district in today's case.

Karlton said he followed a previous ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. Newdow's claims "are resolved because the 9th Circuit has held that the school policy mandating the pledge is unconstitutional," Karlton wrote, reports Bloomberg.

According to Chicago Tribune, the Supreme Court dismissed the case last year, saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter he sued on behalf of.

Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue.

Newdow hopes that will make it more likely the merits of his case will be addressed by the high court.

"All it has to do is put the pledge as it was before, and say that we are one nation, indivisible, instead of dividing us on religious basis," Newdow told The Associated Press.

The decision sets up another showdown over the pledge in schools, at a time when the makeup of the Supreme Court is in flux.

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