Newdow challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance moves from New Hampshire to Massachusetts

In his latest constitutional challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance, atheist activist Dr. Michael Newdow has appealed a loss in New Hampshire federal district court to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Newdow seeks to overturn Chief Judge Steven McAuliffe’s decision in favor of the Hanover, New Hampshire public schools; the lower court ruled that schoolchildren saying the Pledge–including the words “one Nation under God”–does not violate the Constitution. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit civil rights law firm, has once again stepped up to defend the Pledge.

“The Becket Fund will continue to defend the Pledge from coast to coast,” said National Litigation Director Eric Rassbach. “Whether kids are in California, New Hampshire, or somewhere in between, they should have the right to say Pledge, voluntarily, including the words ‘under God.’”

Chief Judge McAuliffe’s October 1st order dismissing the case was issued in response to a motion filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of three Hanover families and the Knights of Columbus. The Becket Fund’s clients are children who attend the targeted public schools and who want to keep saying the Pledge of Allegiance complete with the words “under God”; the parents of those children; and the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization that spearheaded the effort to add “under God” to the Pledge 55 years ago. on behalf of three Hanover families and the Knights of Columbus.

The Becket Fund’s argument to the court explained that the two words “under God” in the Pledge encapsulate a foundational idea in American law and political philosophy: that the rights of the human person are inalienable — and that the power of the state is correspondingly limited — precisely because those rights exist prior to the state and come from a source beyond it. The Becket Fund made the same argument to the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit, also brought by Newdow. The decision in that appeal, filed in November 2005 and argued in December 2007, is still pending.

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