(CNSNews.com) - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has rejected an appeal to reconsider its decision that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contains the phrase "under God."
"We may not - we must not - allow public sentiment or outcry to guide our decisions," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in Friday's ruling, which also said the court would not accept any other petitions to revisit a three-judge panel's ruling in June 2002 that led to national outrage.
That finding cited the U.S. Constitution's principle of separation of church and state when it outlawed reciting the pledge in public classrooms.
Reactions to the court's decision have been both swift and intense.
"This is a very troubling development and one that cannot go unchallenged," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
"We will work aggressively in representing members of Congress and citizens from around the country in asking the Supreme Court to take this case," Sekulow added. "We're hopeful the high court will take the opportunity to address this most important issue and eventually uphold the phrase 'One nation under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance."
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, responded to the ruling by stating that two things need to be done immediately: "Teachers and students should practice civil disobedience, and the judges must be impeached.
"It is up to the teachers in the nine western states affected by this decision to break the law," Donohue continued. "They should instruct their students on the meaning of civil disobedience and then practice it. All they need to do is call the cops and local TV reporters, and then recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their presence."
Regarding his second recommendation, Donohue saw a parallel between America and a nation on the other side of the globe.
"Iraq's problem is tyranny of the minority," he stated. "Ironically, that's our problem as well. But the Iraqi people at least stand to be liberated and have their tyrant deposed. We need to do the same with ours, albeit with different means: Impeachment proceedings against the two federal judges who made this decision should commence as soon as possible.
"Make no mistake about it," Donohue asserted. "It is not enough for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this ruling. Judicial malpractice has been committed, and those responsible must be removed from the bench...not because most Americans disagree with them, but because of jurisprudential incompetence."
However, Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, applauded Friday's decision, stating it "protects freedom of conscience" in the U.S.
"Public schools cannot coerce children into taking part in religious exercises, even seemingly benign and generic ones," Lynn said. "The phrase 'under God' may seem innocuous to many, but to those who object to it, nothing less than freedom of conscience is at stake."
Like many others, Lynn believes the decision should be appealed to the Supreme Court, which should then reject the case.
"Public schools should welcome all students, regardless of what they may believe or not believe about God," he added. "If the Supreme Court overturns this ruling, it will open the door for public schools to impose bland, watered-down forms of 'civil religion' onto students.
"That would not be a positive development for church or state," Lynn concluded.
See Earlier Story:
Pledge of Allegiance 'Unconstitutional,' Court Says (June 26, 2002)
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