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Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow

Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: February 17, 2004

What's at Stake

Reviewing whether schools can constitutionally include the phrase ‘under God,’ when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. DECIDED

Summary

In 1954, Congress added the phrase ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance as part of the Cold War effort to distinguish the United States from ‘godless’ communists. The lower court in this case ruled that the inclusion of that phrase violates the Establishment Clause when the Pledge is recited in school. The friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the ACLU and others supports that conclusion. It notes the particular danger of linking religious belief and patriotism, and the particular risk that young schoolchildren will view the words “under God” as an endorsement of religion to the same degree as the Pledge is perceived as an endorsement of patriotism. The government argues that the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge is no different than the words ‘In God We Trust’ that appear on coins. Unlike the national motto, however, schoolchildren asked to recite the Pledge are being asked to express their personal belief in the values it embodies.

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