For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: June 11, 203
State Attorneys General Unanimously Seek Supreme Court Review of Pledge of Allegiance Case
- Idaho and Oklahoma lead amicus curiae effort
(Oklahoma City) - Saying that an appellate court's decision on the Pledge of Allegiance "defies a nation," Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced today that the attorneys general of all 50 states are urging the United States Supreme Court to review the case.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in Newdow v. United States of America and Elk Grove Unified School District, that the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Attorneys General Wasden and Edmondson released the states' amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," brief this morning during a news conference held in conjunction with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) summer meeting in Oklahoma City. Attorney General Edmondson is President of NAAG.
The attorneys general of 49 states joined the brief, sponsored by Wasden and Edmondson. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer will file a separate brief, on behalf of Governor Gray Davis, also urging the Supreme Court to hear the case.
"For almost 50 years, willing Americans of all ages have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in its current form in public schools and other forums," Attorney General Wasden said. "Most likely, very few of us ever dreamed that a federal court would decide the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes an establishment of religion."
"This is a national issue of historical importance," Attorney General Edmondson said. "Forty-nine states have signed this brief and California, on behalf of its governor, is filing its own brief supporting the Pledge.
"Congress added the words 'under God' to the pledge and they should remain," Edmondson said. "The Supreme Court has previously ruled that these words do not endorse any particular religious belief. Quite simply, the Ninth Circuit is wrong. It is the most reversed circuit in the nation and I feel certain the Supreme Court will hear this case and reverse the Ninth Circuit yet again."
"The Ninth Circuit's decision defies a nation," the attorneys general wrote in their brief. "It begs this Court to exercise judicial discretion in favor of granting the petitions (for certiorari) for two compelling reasons. First, the Newdow decision is of nationwide interest, as that interest is expressed in public policy through the laws of 41 states. Second, the Newdow decision clearly conflicts with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Sherman v. Community Consol. Sch. Dist. 21. Newdow also conflicts with opinions and observations made by this Court and individual Justices confirming the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance."
"Our brief argues that, prior to this case, the boundaries of the Establishment Clause in public school settings were clearly understood to protect the Pledge and similar patriotic exercises," Edmondson said. "Our brief asks the Supreme Court to take this matter on appeal and uphold the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance."
"The states are not seeking to break new ground. This is not a school prayer or Ten Commandments case," Attorney General Wasden said. "Rather, we are asking the Supreme Court to resolve a conflict between the circuits by reaffirming 50 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence."
Daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is the legislatively enacted policy of 44 states. Currently, 41 states have laws in effect providing for daily recitation of the Pledge. Similar laws, recently enacted, will soon take effect in three states. All of the state statutes include a provision protecting the right of students to refrain from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
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