'Under God'

Monday, June 21, 2004

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Sometimes deciding not to decide is the best decision. That was the case when the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Although the five-justice majority was composed of the court's more liberal justices, the decision was based on a conservative principle: Courts should not make unnecessary constitutional pronouncements. The effect of the court's ruling is to leave the pledge as it is.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court, said that Michael A. Newdow didn't have the legal standing file a suit on behalf of his daughter challenging the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the pledge. Sandra Banning, the girl's mother, had "exclusive legal custody" of the girl and the "sole right" to represent her daughter's legal interests. Ms. Banning supported recitation of the current pledge. ...

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas disagreed. They would have allowed the suit and upheld the pledge. Justice Antonin Scalia, a fourth vote for the pledge, didn't participate because he had publicly stated his position.

If the issue returns to the Supreme Court, it is likely to be decided along the lines suggested by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor, who stressed that the words "under God" don't make the pledge a prayer. ...

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