For Release: June 2002
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]
An opinion issued by an understaffed federal court which outlawed children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as an unconstitutional promotion of religion has outraged the membership of the African-American leadership network Project 21.
A panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted two-to-one that the Pledge's description of the United States as "one Nation, under God" violates the First Amendment's prohibition of the establishment of a state religion. Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, a semi-retired judge serving on the case due to judicial vacancies, wrote the opinion. He was joined by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
"I guess Judge Goodwin was endowed by his creator with the inalienable right to misinterpret separation of church and state," said Project 21 member Council Nedd. "The Founding Fathers were concerned about separation of church and state not because they opposed the mention or acknowledging of God, but because they did not want a state-imposed religion like the Church of England."
If this opinion is not challenged, it will be illegal for schoolchildren in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington to recite the Pledge. The full 9th Circuit could be asked to review the ruling, or the U.S. Supreme Court could hear an appeal as early as this fall. The 9th Circuit ruling already conflicts with an earlier ruling by the 7th Circuit upholding the constitutionality of the Pledge.
Over the past six years, the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled decisions by the 9th Circuit judges almost 90 percent of the time. Judge Reinhardt alone was reversed by the Supreme Court 11 times during the 1996-7 term.
A main reason why Goodwin, despite his semi-retired "senior status," was on the case was due to the fact that the court has five judicial vacancies. President George W. Bush has made three nominations to the court, but the liberal-controlled Senate is stalling on dozens of the President's nominees - many of whom were nominated more than a year ago.
"When the 9th Circuit's ruling was announced, every senator
in Washington rushed to vote in support of the Pledge of Allegiance.
But many of these same senators are deceitfully engaging in partisan
tactics that are keeping good judges from being confirmed to our
courts," said Project 21 Director David Almasi. "Congressman
Chris Cox was considered to this very court, but opposition from
Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer - who objected to Congressman
Cox because he is devoutly religious - made him remove his name
from consideration. Had these two senators not been so short-sighted
and partisan, a foolish decision like the one that came down on
the Pledge might never have happened."
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.