An appellate court has upheld references to God on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance, rejecting arguments they violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
"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," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling Thursday.
Bea noted that schools do not require students to recite the pledge, which was amended to include the words "under God" by a 1954 federal law. Members of Congress at the time said they wanted to set the United States apart from "godless communists."
In a separate 3-0 ruling, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency, citing an earlier 9th Circuit panel that ruled the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic and "has nothing whatsover to do with the establishment of religion."
The same appeals court caused a national uproar and prompted accusations of judicial activism when it decided in Sacramento athiest Michael Newdow's favor in 2002, ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion.
President George W. Bush called the 2002 decision "ridiculous," senators passed a resolution condemning the ruling and Newdow received death threats.
That lawsuit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, but the high court said Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the suit because he didn't have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case.
So Newdow filed an identical challenge on behalf of other parents who objected to the recitation of the pledge at school. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Newdow's favor, prompting the appeals court to take up the case again.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who was part of the three-judge panel that ruled in Newdow's favor eight years ago, wrote a 123-page dissent to the 60-page majority opinion.