Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories


‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now

By John W. Kennedy (8/8/04)

Various proponents and opponents of religion in the public square are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Flag Day sidestepped the issue of whether the phrase “under God” is constitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Outspoken atheist Michael A. Newdow sued the Elk Grove (Calif.) Unified School District in 2000, claiming that listening to the “daily indoctrination” of “religious dogma” injured his impressionable daughter, then a kindergartener.

Instead of addressing the main issue, five of the justices determined that Newdow lacked standing on a technicality: The girl’s mother had “exclusive legal custody,” entitling her to make all educational decisions. If Newdow wants to indoctrinate his daughter with his views he can do so at home when he has custody, Justice John Paul Stevens implied in the majority opinion.

Three other justices wrote concurring opinions that the case should be dismissed, not because Newdow lacked standing but because the pledge is indeed legal.

Sacramento attorney Terence J. Cassidy, who represented the school district in the case, spent much of his oral arguments in March noting that mother Sandra Benning had legal custody and the right to decide whether the child heard the pledge in school. Benning, who is a born-again Christian, told justices that her daughter volunteered to lead the pledge in her fourth-grade classroom.

“The Supreme Court gave us exactly what we asked for, and that is to dismiss the case on the grounds that Mr. Newdow lacked standing,” Cassidy told PE Report. “The court is looking at what is in the best interest of the student, not the parents.” Newdow and Banning never married.

Christian organizations such as the American Center for Law and Justice, the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, and Concerned Women for America voiced similar jubilation at the outcome, which reverses a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from 2002. The ban, which impacted nine western states, had been on hold pending the school district’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Yet other Christian groups wanted a more unequivocal judgment. “You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out,” says Kevin J. Hasson, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. “It’s a shame the court couldn’t unify around the same principle that has been unifying the rest of us since the Declaration of Independence: Our rights are secure because they come from a higher authority than the state.” Hasson authored a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, the organization that urged Congress to add the words “under God” to the recitation half a century ago.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Catholic League President William Donohue, Rutherford Institute founder John W. Whitehead, and American Family Association Center for Law and Policy chief counsel Stephen Crampton also criticized the court for sidestepping the real issue.

Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson appeared among the most frustrated. “The Supreme Court does not emerge from this case the defender of America’s moral and Christian heritage — in fact it showed a lack of principle that is truly appalling,” Dobson said in a statement. “Instead of settling this question once and for all, the court has left the nation to wonder if God’s name will be found unconstitutional if another challenge is brought in a procedurally correct fashion.”

Foes of the oath also found fault. “The justices ducked this constitutional issue today, but it is certain to come back in the future,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, one of the three justices to issue a separate opinion, chastised the majority for failing to rule that the pledge doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. “Reciting the pledge, or listening to others recite it, is a patriotic exercise, not a religious one,” Rehnquist wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas maintained that saying the oath doesn’t expose children to coercion associated with an established religion. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that the reference to God in the pledge is merely a generic reference to “ceremonial deism.”

However, Newdow thinks the ruling only delays an inevitable tilt in his favor. “There are a whole bunch of litigants looking to file in the federal courts,” Newdow told PE Report immediately after the opinion.

Newdow views the separate opinions indicating support for the pledge as more fodder for his side. “That was nice of them to do that,” he says. “Now we know when we bring the next case exactly what to say to show how their arguments are flawed.”

Yet Cassidy believes the outcome will have a long-term positive impact. “It will be much more difficult to bring a successful case challenging the Pledge of Allegiance with the words ‘under God’ in the wake of this decision,” he predicts. “The majority recognize that it is a patriotic exercise that is a public acknowledgement of the ideals our flag symbolizes.”

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God