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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 22:48 GMT 23:48 UK
US school pledge under fire again
By James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

Californian atheist Michael Newdow outside the US Supreme Court last year
Campaigner Michael Newdow lost a similar case last year
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in US state schools is unconstitutional because of its religious element, a federal judge has ruled in California.

The judge said it violated a child's constitutional right to be free of any coercive requirement to affirm God.

Three unnamed parents represented by a well-known atheist brought the case.

The ruling in San Francisco mirrors a decision taken by the same court in 2002, which was eventually overturned by the US Supreme Court.

Every day, millions of American schoolchildren pledge their allegiance to "one nation under God".

But, for the second time in three years, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled this unconstitutional.

Procedural grounds

Michael Newdow, who represents the three parents, gained nationwide notoriety in 2002 when he brought the original case on behalf of his then 10-year-old daughter.

The federal court's ruling on that occasion proved to be highly controversial and was overturned by the US Supreme Court last year - but on procedural, not substantive, grounds.

There is a good chance that this latest ruling, by Judge Lawrence Karlton, will also end up before America's highest court.

The court is increasingly being called to make judgements on the often contentious relationship between church and state.

US to keep 'under God' pledge
14 Jun 04 |  Americas

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