House Passes Pledge Protection Act

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - In a vote of 247 to 173, the House Thursday passed a bill that would prevent all courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, from ruling on whether the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance case violate the Constitution.

The Pledge Protection Act, H.R. 2028, was sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).

Religious watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State was disappointed with the news, having urged lawmakers earlier to defeat the bill and calling the measure "extreme and unwise."

"This bill is a dramatic assault on the courts and individual rights, wrapped in phony patriotism," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "This is election-year grandstanding at its worst."

"The supporters of this bill have shown callous disregard for long-standing constitutional principles," Lynn added. "The federal courts should be open to all Americans seeking protection of their constitutional rights."

Lynn expressed confidence that the Senate, which is next in line to consider the measure, will "bury this bill, as it so richly deserves."

Catholic League President William Donohue, on the other hand, said passing the measure to address the Pledge of Allegiance controversy was "too tame."

"Given the reckless disregard that so many judges have shown for the plain language of the Constitution, it is entirely understandable that the House would move to prohibit the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases involving the Pledge," said Donohue in a statement.

"But this is the wrong remedy: much more drastic action is needed," he said. "Court stripping is too tame a remedy given the undemocratic nature of today's courts. What is needed is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Supreme Court from nullifying congressional legislation unless the opinion were unanimous.

"The Congress should then be allowed to override a unanimous high court veto by a two-thirds vote in both houses," Donohue added.

He credited Chief Justice John Marshall as having first broached the position, followed more recently by former-Marxist political philosopher Sidney Hook.

"Writing in the early 1960s, Hook argued that the powers excised by the federal courts were profoundly undemocratic and were in need of being curbed. That the courts have become even more undemocratic since is undisputable," said Donohue.

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