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Education Reporter

House Passes Bill To Keep  
Pledge Out of Federal Courts
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 247-173 on September 23 to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rep. Todd Akin
Rep. Todd Akin
Sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), the Pledge Protection Act is authorized by a provision in the Constitution giving Congress the power to make exceptions to federal court jurisdiction. The bill was a shot across the bow to federal judges who have attempted to strike the words "under God" from the Pledge, which is recited in schools across the country and by new U.S. citizens.

In 2002 the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declared teacher-led recitation of the Pledge in public schools unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Amid overwhelming condemnation by Congress and the public, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the 9th Circuit decision on a technicality in June this year. However, disappointed plaintiff Michael Newdow has encouraged others to bring similar suits in the future and it is unclear how the Supreme Court would rule on the merits of such a case. (See Education Reporter, Sept. 2004.)

Akin observed that the Supreme Court is likely to rule against the Pledge eventually "if we allow activist judges to start creating law and say that it is wrong to somehow allow schoolchildren to say 'under God' in the Pledge." His bill attracted 226 co-sponsors.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
"Many federal judges have made no secret of their hostility to traditional values and religion in the public square," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said in a written statement after the vote, "and the Pledge Protection Act will make sure those judges can't impose their personal prejudices on the rest of us. State courts should be free to determine this issue without the interference of unaccountable federal judges."

House Democrats opposing the bill in debate said majority Republicans were debasing the Constitution in order to force a vote that could hurt Democrats in the November election. The bill, which does not prevent Pledge cases from being heard in state courts, is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate.

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