2A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 15, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)-- A federal judge declared
the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public
schools unconstitutional yesterday, a decision that
could put the divisive issue on track for another round
of Supreme Court arguments.
The case was brought by the same atheist whose
previous battle against the words "under God" was
rejected last year by the Supreme Court on procedural
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the
pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates
school children's right to be "free from a coercive
requirement to affirm God."
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002
ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael New-
dow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited
in public schools.
The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year,
saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not
have custody of his elementary school daughter he
sued on behalf of.
Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed
an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents
and their children. Karlton said those families have the
right to sue.
Newdow hopes that will make it more likely the
merits of his case will be addressed by the high court.
"All it has to do is put the pledge as it was before,
and say that we are one nation, indivisible, instead
of dividing us on religious basis," Newdow told The
"Imagine every morning if the teachers had the
children stand up, place their hands over their hearts,
and say, 'We are one nation that denies God exists,'"
Students at Giese Elementary School in Racine, Wis., recite the Pledge of Allegiance
"I think that everybody would not be sitting here say-
ing, 'Oh, what harm is that.' They'd be furious. And that's
exactly what goes on against atheists. And it shouldn't."
Karlton, ruling in Sacramento, said he would sign a
restraining order preventing the recitation of the pledge
at the Elk Grove Unified, Rio Linda and Elverta Joint
Elementary school districts in Sacramento County,
where the plaintiffs' children attend.
The order would not extend beyond those districts
unless it is affirmed by the 9th Circuit, in which case
it could apply to nine western states, or the Supreme
Court, which would apply to all states.
The decision sets up another showdown over the
pledge in schools, at a time when the makeup of the
Supreme Court is in flux.
Yesterday's ruling comes as Supreme Court
nominee John Roberts faces day three of his con-
firmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary
Committee. He would succeed the late William
Rehnquist as chief justice.
In July, Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans
to retire when a successor is confirmed.
The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a
party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the
case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent,
the group would go to the Supreme Court.
"It's a way to get this issue to the Supreme Court
for a final decision to be made," said fund attorney
The decisions by Karlton and the 9th Circuit con-
flict with an August opinion by the 4th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
"Undoubtedly, the pledge contains a religious
phrase, and it is demeaning to persons of any faith
to assert that the words 'under God' contain no
religious significance," Judge Karen Williams
wrote for the 4th Circuit. "The inclusion of those
two words, however, does not alter the nature of
the pledge as a patriotic activity."
NEWS IN BRIEF F'
State officials reject gay marriage ban
The Massachusetts Legislature rejected a proposed change to the state constitu-
tion yesterday aimed at banning gay marriage, a striking reversal that preserves the
state's status as the only place in the nation where same-sex couples can wed.
A year after Massachusetts politicians appeared destined to undo a court order
that has allowed thousands of same-sex couples to marry since May 17, 2004, the
Legislature voted 157-39 against the proposed constitutional amendment.
It was the second time the Legislature had confronted the measure. Lawmakers
were required to approve it in two consecutive sessions before the proposal could
move to the statewide ballot in 2006 for a final decision by voters.
The measure, which would have allowed Vermont-style civil unions, won pas-
sage by a 105-92 last year.
The proposal also was opposed by critics of gay marriage, who want to push for
a more restrictive measure.
"The union of two women and two men can never consummate a marriage.
It's physically impossible," said state Rep. Phil Travis, a Democrat. "The other 49
states are right and we are wrong."
Displaced families will get vouchers
More than 350,000 families made homeless by Hurricane Katrina would
get emergency housing vouchers averaging $600 a month for up to six months
under a measure approved yesterday by the Senate.
Any displaced family regardless of income would be eligible for the pro-
gram, expected to cost $3.5 billion over six months.
The action came as Senate Democrats scolded the nation's security chief for
failing to take advantage of a national emergency response plan to send mas-
sive federal aid to the Gulf Coast before Hurricane Katrina hit.
Democrats said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff delayed
declaring Katrina an "incident of national significance" - a designation that
would have triggered a quick and massive federal response - until a day after
the hurricane hit, even though weather forecasts predicted the storm would
cause widespread destruction.
CAROLINA BEACH, N.C.
Hurricane Ophelia makes land-fall
Hurricane Ophelia lashed the North Carolina coast with high winds and heavy
rains yesterday, beginning an anticipated two-day assault that threatened serious
With the slow-moving storm expected to produce up to 15 inches of rain in plac-
es, Gov. Mike Easley told people to get out of the storm's path.
"If you have not heeded the warning before, let me be clear right now: Ophelia is
a dangerous storm," the governor said from Raleigh, warning of storm surges that
could reach 11 feet.
As it brushed the coast, Ophelia ripped away one barrier island street and chased
emergency personnel to shelter. The storm had sustained wind of 85 mph yesterday
afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Roberts's confirmation almost certain
WASHINGTON (AP) - Supreme
Court nominee John Roberts carefully
picked his way through a second day
of questions from the Senate Judiciary
Committee yesterday as Republicans
challenged Democrats to support his all-
but-certain confirmation as the nation's
17th chief justice.
"If people can't vote for you, then I
doubt that they can vote for any Repub-
lican nominee," said Sen. Orrin Hatch
Minority Democrats sounded
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told
Roberts he was "cutting back a little on
what you said yesterday," referring to
Roberts's earlier statement that the Con-
stitution provides a right to privacy.
The New York Democrat made
his charge after Roberts declined to
cite any examples of disagreement
with the opinions of Justice Clarence
Thomas. Thomas has written there
is no general right to privacy, a right
often viewed as the underpinning of a
right to abortion.
"We are rolling the dice with you,"
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) told the
50-year-old appeals court judge, who
turned aside questions about abortion,
the right to die, the permissibility of
torture and other issues he said may
come before the court.
Even as Roberts fielded questions,
there was fresh evidence of the con-
tentious issues that await him if he is
confirmed to replace the late Chief
Justice William Rehnquist. There
were gasps from the audience when
word was relayed from the committee
dais that a federal judge in California
had ruled the recitation of the Pledge
of Allegiance in public schools was
unconstitutional because it includes
the words "under God." Roberts was
not asked for his opinion.
For the second straight day, Roberts
fielded questions calmly, summoning
descriptions of past cases from mem-
ory. He spiced his testimony with a
sense of humor, promising at one point
that if confirmed, he would not seek a
pay raise "next week."
Republicans projected ever greater
confidence that he would soon preside in
the grand marble Supreme Court build-
ing across the street from the Capitol.
"We need you to bring to the court
your compassion and your understand-
ing for the lives of others who haven't
been as successful as you have been,"
said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) one
of several Republicans who spoke as
if giving a send-off message to a man
about to embark on a new mission.
GOP officials say they are confident
of the support of all 10 Republican
members of the committee when the
roll is called next week, although it
is possible all eight Democrats will
Annan defends U.N against critcism
After a year of mounting criticism, Secretary-General Kofi Annan
defended the United Nations yesterday and urged global leaders to restore
the organization's credibility by adopting broad reforms needed for the
world to act together to tackle poverty, terrorism and conflict.
Addressing a summit that he called a year ago in hopes of winning
approval for an ambitious blueprint to modernize the United Nations on its
60th anniversary, Annan told more than 150 presidents, prime ministers
and kings that "a good start" had been made.
But he said sharp differences had blocked-"the sweeping and fundamen-
tal reform that I and many others believe is required."
Instead of a celebration of U.N. achievements since its founding in the
ashes of World War II, the summit was much more a somber reappraisal of
its shortcomings and a debate about how to meet the daunting challenges of
a world becoming more and more interlinked.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
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