Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The words under God were added to the Texas Pledge of Allegiance in 2007. That year, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the phrase’s constitutionality and sought an injunction banning its use. In the district court, the State successfully argued that reciting the Texas Pledge is a patriotic exercise and is protected by the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion. The federal district court issued a decision rejecting the plaintiffs’ challenge in 2009, and the plaintiffs appealed their loss to the Fifth Circuit.
In today’s ruling, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, ruling that the Texas Pledge . . . is a patriotic exercise, and it is made no less so by the acknowledgement of Texas’s religious heritage via the inclusion of the phrase under God.’
The appeals court also denied the plaintiffs’ argument that the Texas Pledge endorses a particular religious belief. Rather, the ruling acknowledged: A pledge can constitutionally acknowledge the existence of, and even value, a religious belief without impermissibly favoring that value or belief, without advancing belief over non-belief, and without coercing participation in a religious exercise. Texas’s pledge is of this sort and consequently survives this challenge.
The Texas Pledge of Allegiance reads: Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.