HIST 3550 Research Paper

HIST 3550 Research Paper - Anne Cordeiro HIST 3550 4/2/09...

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Anne Cordeiro HIST 3550 4/2/09 One Nation Under God Each morning in public schools across America students stand up, put their right hands over their hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it reads as follows: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Yet in recent years this is a practice that has caused significant controversy. Critics of the Pledge cite that the two words “under God” are a constitutional infraction of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. Fundamentally the Establishment Clause states that the United States Congress is not allowed to make any law or action that endorses the establishment of Religion; this being the cornerstone for the separation of Church and State. However in the past ten years alone there have been numerous cases brought to the United States judicial systems questioning the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Cases such as Elk Grove School District v. Michael Newdow, Myers v. Loudoun County Public Schools, and Croft v. Perry have all investigated this inquiry and set clear precedents to follow. All of these cases used the example of the last, instituting that the Pledge of Allegiance is not a Constitutional violation of the Establishment Clause. However this brings into question, do we live in a civil-religious society and should the courts examine ways to bring a further separation of Church and State? In March 2000 atheist Michael Newdow filed suit on behalf of himself and his daughter against the Elk Grove Unified School District. Newdow claimed that the words “under God” in the Pledge were an endorsement of religion therefore violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district court ruled in favor of the School District, declaring that the
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Pledge is indeed constitutional. Upon this ruling Newdow appealed to the US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. At the appellate court level a three-judge panel reviewed the case and reversed the trial court opinion 2 to 1, deeming the words “under God” a violation of the Establishment Clause. The justices reviewed the case using the Lemon and Endorsement Tests to establish the constitutionality of the pledge. The Lemon Test developed after Lemon v. Kurtzman creates three legislative requirements for testing the motives of what could be considered religious law. Similarly the Endorsement Test proposed by Sandra Day O’Connor in 1984 during Lynch v. Donnely asks whether a particular government action endorses religion. If a governmental action examined through these tests violates any of these requirements, it is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause. The Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court decision on the grounds of the Lemon and Endorsement Tests, claiming the Pledge a clear violation of the Constitution. However in December 2002, Sandra Banning the mother of Newdow’s daughter
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This note was uploaded on 10/21/2009 for the course HIST 2100 taught by Professor Naigles during the Spring '08 term at UConn.

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HIST 3550 Research Paper - Anne Cordeiro HIST 3550 4/2/09...

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