Saturday, March 26, 2005

Pledge Dispute in the 4th Circuit

How Appealing links to a report that the 4th Circuit is hearing an establishment clause challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance. Interestingly, the challenge is to the entire pledge, not just the "Under God" clause, and it is being made by a Mennonite Christian, not an atheist as in the Newdow case. The gist of the argument is that the Pledge creates a "civic religion" (buttressed by the intermingling of religious and patriotic messages in the text), which violates the first amendment. Furthermore, as applied in the district, the pledge coerces the students by, among other things, rewarding those who say it with coupons and other perks (which discriminates against conscentious objectors by virtue of omission).

To me, the district court's opinion seemed to give the pledge an awfully leinant standard of review. I do think the "under God" clause of the pledge is unconstitutional--although not the whole pledge. I think that the system of "rewards" tied to reciting the pledge is problematic as well. Still, the odds that the most conservative appeals court in the land (the 4th) will follow in the steps of the most liberal (the 9th) seems unlikely.

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