Federal Court: NH Students Can Recite Pledge

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New Hampshire school students can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in classes every day, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston found the oath's reference to God does not violate their constitutional rights.

Friday's decision affirmed a ruling by a lower federal judge who found that students can use the phrase "under God" when reciting the pledge.

"In reciting the Pledge, students promise fidelity to our flag and our nation, not to any particular God, faith, or church," Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote for the court. "The New Hampshire School Patriot Act's primary effect is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism through a pledge to the flag as a symbol of the nation."

The case began after the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis., organization working for the separation of church and state, filed suit against a New Hampshire law requiring schools to authorize time for students to voluntarily recite the pledge.

The pledge was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. It was first published in the magazine Youth's Companion as a part of the National Public School Celebration of Columbus Day, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World.

The pledge has been modified four times since then, with the most recent change adding the words "under God" in 1954.

The current version of the Pledge reads:

"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."

The American Center for Law and Justice said the ruling shows "patriotic, time-honored traditions should be embraced and not targeted for extinction."

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