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Judge Decides Part of Pledge is Unconstitutional

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Original Title:
Federal Judge Rules "Under God" Unconstitutional in Pledge

A federal judge in Sacramento ruled this morning that it is unconstitutional for public school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because of its reference to one nation "under God."

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled he is bound by the precedent set by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional for the Pledge to be recited in public schools.

Karlton ruled in a lawsuit brought by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow on behalf of three families who are custodial parents of children who attend Northern California public schools and the students themselves.

Newdow, who learned of the judgement today in Texas where he works part-time as an emergency room physician, said, "We are not a nation under God. We are nation under religious freedom and religious equality and government's not allowed to take sides in a religious dispute and it's doing that right now."

Newdow told News10 he would probably request a temporary restraining order next week to keep students from saying the Pledge in the Sacramento area school districts involved in the lawsuit. The affected districts are the Elk Grove Unified School District, Elverta Joint Elementary School District, and the Rio Linda School District.

Karlton said he would sign a restraining order.

In a mid-afternoon press conference, the districts responded that they were disappointed in the ruling and that there wasn't a full-court review of the case. They added that students would continue to recite the Pledge until the districts were ordered to desist.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, D.C., immediately announced it will appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Newdow lost a similar attempt to have the Pledge ruled unconstitutional when he sued on behalf of his daughter. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow's argument that the pledge violated the so-called "establishment clause" of the U.S. Constitution. The case was appealed and ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court last year. However, the justices declined to rule on the issue, saying it was unclear if Newdow had legal custody of his daughter.

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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