HOUSE VOTES TO PROTECT "UNDER GOD" IN PLEDGE
By Andy Sullivan Wed Jul 19, 7:33 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In
a move intended to preserve a reference to God in an oath recited by millions of Americans each day, the House of Representatives
voted on Wednesday to prevent U.S. courts from hearing challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance.
The 260-167 vote, largely
along party lines, was one of several hot-button topics brought to the House floor by Republican leaders aiming to highlight
differences between the parties before November's congressional elections.
In the Senate, a similar
bill has not advanced since it was introduced a year ago.
Conservatives have sought
to keep the phrase "under God" in the pledge since an appeals court ruled in 2002 it amounted to an endorsement of religion
in violation of the U.S. Constitution. An atheist had challenged the pledge being recited in his daughter's school. Schoolchildren
across the nation commonly pledge allegiance to the flag each morning.
The Supreme Court struck
down the appeals court decision on procedural grounds but left the door open for another challenge, causing Republicans to
say the pledge must be placed off-limits before "activist judges" tamper with it again.
"We're creating a fence.
The fence goes around the federal judiciary. We're doing that because we don't trust them," said Missouri Rep. Todd Akin.
man who has led the challenge against the phrase "under God" vowed to fight the new legislation if it became law and said
it provided him with new legal arguments against the pledge.
"This is the greatest thing
that could have happened," Michael Newdow, who is both a lawyer and a doctor, said by telephone. "They are showing the courts
that this is a huge issue and that they want their religious view espoused by our government which is exactly what the Constitution
Akin and other Republicans
said the reference to God, added to the pledge in 1954, did not endorse any specific religion but referred to the philosophy
of the country's founders that rights such as freedom of speech were granted by a divine being, not a government.
Democrats said the measure
would deprive the courts of their ability to oversee an important form of personal rights.
(Additional reporting by
Adam Tanner in San Francisco)