Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of "Under God" - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

03/24/04 - Tyler

Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of "Under God"

It's a hotly debated issue that's gone all the way to the Supreme Court. The issue: two words in the pledge of allegiance, "under God." An atheist father in California sued his 9-year-old daughter's school district for requiring her and other students to recite the pledge every day. Michael Newdow says the words "under God" violate their first amendment rights to freedom of religion. Today, the Supreme Court heard his arguments in the case.

The phrase was not part of the original pledge written in 1892. Congress added those two words in 1954. That was after religious leaders lobbied for the phrase during the Cold War to unite the U.S. against Communists. Today, the two hotly debated words were the topic of discussion at John Tyler High School in Phyllis Hedricks' 11th grade AP U.S. History class.

"How many of you think those two words should be left in there?" Hedricks asked her students.

Nineteen of the 21 students want the words left in. Two say they don't care either way.

One of the two is Ben Sefrna: "It's not appropriate to have God in state institutions because the country was founded on religious freedom, not Christianity."

Tameka Jones, another student, responded: "We are a country based on Christian values."

"He's [Newdow] taking that right away from you," Hedricks said.

"And that's not right 'cause he's taking rights away from us to say "under God," Jones said.

"How could one person just come over and want to change something that's been going on for years?" Beatriz Velazquez, another student, said. "That's not possible. There's other people that could fight against that person. One person is not stronger than the beliefs of other people."

Most believe the debate will likely continue even after the Supreme Court has made its decision.

A decision in the case is expected by the end of June. The court's ruling will directly impact the laws of at least 35 states, including Texas, which require students in public schools to say the pledge once a day.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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