597 F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2010), 05-17257, Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School Dist.
|Docket Nº:||05-17257, 05-17344, 06-15093.|
|Citation:||597 F.3d 1007|
|Opinion Judge:||BEA, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||Dr. Michael A. NEWDOW; Pat Doe; Jan Doe; Doechild; Jan Poe; Poechild; Roechild-1, Plaintiffs, v. RIO LINDA UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellant, and Jan Roe and Roechild-2, Plaintiffs-Appellees, and United States of America; John Carey; Adrienne Carey; Brenden Carey; Adam Araiza; Anita Araiza; Albert Araiza; Michaela Bishop; Craig Bishop; Mar|
|Attorney:||Dr. Michael Newdow (argued), Sacramento, CA, for plaintiffs-appellees Jan Roe, et al. Craig M. Blackwell, Theodore C. Hirt, Peter D. Keisler, McGregor W. Scott, Gregory G. Katsas (argued), Robert M. Loeb, Lowell V. Sturgill, Jr., Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for defendant-intervenor-a...|
|Judge Panel:||Before DOROTHY W. NELSON, STEPHEN REINHARDT, and CARLOS T. BEA, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge BEA; Dissent by Judge REINHARDT. REINHARDT, Circuit Judge, dissenting:|
|Case Date:||March 11, 2010|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
Argued and Submitted Dec. 4, 2007.
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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Lawrence K. Karlton, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-05-00017-LKK.
We are called upon to decide whether the teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, by students in public schools constitutes an establishment of religion prohibited by the United States Constitution. We hold it does not; the Pledge is constitutional.
The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God -the Founding Fathers' belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; indivisible -although we have individual states, they are united in one Republic; with liberty -the government cannot take away the people's inalienable rights; and justice for all -everyone in America is entitled to " equal justice under the law" (as is inscribed above the main entrance to our Supreme Court). Millions of people daily recite these words when pledging allegiance to the United States of America:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
4 U.S.C. § 4 (2002).
Pursuant to California Education Code § 52720, the Rio Linda Union School District in California (" the School District" ) has a practice that every morning, willing students, led by their teachers, face the American Flag, place their right hands over their hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Plaintiff Jan Roe is a self-proclaimed atheist whose child, RoeChild-2, attends elementary school in the School District. Roe filed suit alleging that the words " under God" in the Pledge offend her belief that there is no God, interfere with her right to direct her child's upbringing, and indoctrinate her child with the belief that God exists. The parties have stipulated
that RoeChild-2 has never recited the Pledge, but Roe nevertheless asks us to prohibit the recitation of the Pledge by other students. Thus, this case presents a familiar dilemma in our pluralistic society-how to balance conflicting interests when one group wants to do something for patriotic reasons that another groups finds offensive to its religious (or atheistic) beliefs. In other words, does Roe have the right to prevent teachers from leading other students from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance-something we all agree is a patriotic exercise-because the mention of God in the Pledge offends her as an atheist?
Plaintiffs challenge the School District's policy as constituting a violation of the Establishment Clause: " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." U.S. Const. amend. I.
The Pledge reflects many beliefs held by the Founding Fathers of this country-the same men who authored the Establishment Clause-including the belief that it is the people who should and do hold the power, not the government. They believed that the people derive their most important rights, not from the government, but from God:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration of Independence, 1 U.S.C. § XLIII (1776) (emphasis added). The Founders did not see these two ideas-that individuals possessed certain God-given rights which no government can take away, and that we do not want our nation to establish a religion-as being in conflict.
Not every mention of God or religion by our government or at the government's direction is a violation of the Establishment Clause. See Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673, 104 S.Ct. 1355, 79 L.Ed.2d 604 (1984) (" Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any." ). The Supreme Court has upheld several government actions that contained a religious element against Establishment Clause claims: a display of the Ten Commandments on the Texas State Capitol grounds; 1 the display of a Chanukah menorah outside a City-County Building; 2 the display of a Nativity scene in a public Christmas display; 3 a state legislature's practice of opening each day with a prayer led by a chaplain paid with state funds; 4 a state's property tax exemption for religious organizations; 5 and a township's program for reimbursing parents for the cost of transporting their children to parochial schools.6 Each of these cases involved religion. But taken in context, none of the government actions violated the Establishment Clause.
The plaintiffs and the dissent focus solely on the words " under God" in isolation,
stripped of all context and history. Plaintiffs and the dissent even go so far as to disregard the plain text of the preamble to 4 U.S.C. § 4 which sets forth that Congress had two primary purposes in including the phrase " one nation under God" in the Pledge: (1) to underscore the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers that God granted certain inalienable rights to the people which the government cannot take away; and (2) to add the note of importance which a Pledge to our Nation ought to have and which ceremonial references to God invoke. The Supreme Court has instructed us to do otherwise: " Focus exclusively on the religious component of any [governmental] activity would inevitably lead to its invalidation...
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