BOSTON A federal appeals court ruled that students in New Hampshire can voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase "under God" in the classroom.
The three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Nov. 12 a ruling by a federal judge that the phrase "under God" does not violate students' constitutional rights.
"In reciting the Pledge, students promise fidelity to our flag and our nation, not to any particular God, faith, or church," Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote for the court. "The New Hampshire School Patriot Act's primary effect is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism through a pledge to the flag as a symbol of the nation."
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by The Freedom From Religion Foundation against a New Hampshire law requiring schools to authorize time for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge.
"This appeals court reached a significant and sound decision that underscores what most Americans understand - that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance embraces patriotism, not religion," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
The FFRA lawsuit challenged a New Hampshire statute called the New Hampshire School Patriot Act that permitted students to voluntarily recite the Pledge in school. A federal district court upheld the constitutionality of the state law and the FFRF appealed to the First Circuit.
Michael Newdow, a California attorney who has fought for years to take out the phrase "under God" from the Pledge, has said he will likely appealing the ruling.