A federal appeals court yesterday ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and must not be recited in schools.

"In the context of the Pledge, the statement that the United States is a nation 'under God' is an endorsement of religion," a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 decision. "To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead, it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice, and—since 1954—monotheism. … A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion."

The ban (which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) elicited immediate responses from politicians and advocacy organizations.

"The President's reaction was that this ruling is ridiculous," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "The view of the White House is that this was a wrong decision, and the Department of Justice is now evaluating how to seek redress."

The Associated Press quotes President Bush this morning saying that the decision is "out of step" with the country's history. "America is a nation ... that values our relationship with the Almighty," Bush said. "We need commonsense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God."

Atheist Michael A. Newdowfirst filed the suit in 1998 on behalf of his then-four-year-old daughter, when the two lived in Broward County, Florida. Courts dismissed the trial there because his daughter wasn't yet in ...

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