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Challenge to Pledge Thrown Out

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• The History of the Pledge of Allegiance
Text of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Supreme Court has refuted a challenge by noted atheist Michael Newdow to the recitation of the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, saying that Newdow did not have standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

The lawsuit was argued March 24 before the Court, and the decision was announced on June 14, Flag Day.

The case came to the Court by way of a decision last year by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the appearance of the words "under God" meant that the government was sponsoring a religion, something that lawyers argued—and the Appeals Court agreed with—violates the First Amendment's mandate of a separation of church and state, meaning that the government will not list one religion as an "official" one.

The Supreme Court did not rule on whether the words "under God" were lawfully part of the Pledge. Rather, the Court said that Newdow could not sue on behalf of his daughter because he is not her legal guardian.

The official term is "standing to sue" and has its origins in Article III of the Constitution: A person who is suing someone else or something must demonstrate, at an "irreducible minimum," that: "(1) he/she has suffered a distinct and palpable injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct; and (3) it is likely to be redressed if the requested relief is granted."

What this all means in plain language is this: The person who is suing must demonstrate that he or she has been significantly harmed by whoever or whatever he or she is suing, that the harm was done by only that person or thing, and that if that person or thing is removed, then the person who is suing will suffer no further.

The Supreme Court has not decided whether the words "under God" are doing anyone harm by remaining in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court has, in the past, ruled that schoolchildren cannot be required to say the Pledge. The Court has, rather, made it so that Newdow won't be able to have further say on the case, at least on behalf of his daughter.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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