- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Each school day, millions of children across the country put their hand to their heart and say 31 words their promise to a nation.

But a day after a federal court ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion for including the words "under God," children around the region said they hope the pledge remains.

"Since September 11, we need the pledge and God," said Michelle Reese, 14, a ninth-grader at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. "I grew up on the Pledge. I don't see the point of taking it away."

She said that instead of preventing everyone from reciting the Pledge, the students who had a problem with it should just opt out.

"It reminds us that we are one country," said Bryan Holmes, 14, a 10th-grader at Northwestern. "I don't get it. We should have a national vote with kids allowed to vote and no recounts."

Emmanuel Fatokun, 11, who attends LaSalle Elementary in Northeast, said he was indifferent to the Pledge until the terrorist attacks of September 11.

"Before, I didn't know why I was saying it," he said. "Then after September 11, a lot of family of people at my school died. Now, saying the Pledge honors them. Now I feel I am supposed to be saying it."

Those who disagree with reciting the Pledge in school say they have an uphill battle, despite Wednesday's ruling.

Ed Myers, a parent in Loudoun County, Va., appealed to the School Board and the Education and Justice departments last year to stop the Pledge from being recited in Loudoun County schools.

"I have strong religious views, and the worlds 'I pledge allegiance,' I believe, are idolatry and authoritarian," he said. "Children won't opt out even if they don't want to say the Pledge. It is too disruptive and makes them too uncomfortable."

After his request, he said that many on the School Board and in the community took the attitude that "'if you don't like it, you can leave the country.'"

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and that the nine Western states in its jurisdiction no longer may require its recitation in public schools.

The words "under God" coerce children who don't believe in God, two judges on a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. The opinion is binding on courts in the 9th Circuit, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The case originated after a Sacramento, Calif., father complained that his second-grade daughter was forced to listen to her teacher recite the Pledge.

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court said that no one could be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dana Richardson, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Francis DeSales, a parochial school in the District, said that even though children in his school don't recite the Pledge, he thinks the Pledge should stay as is.

"We have to say prayers instead," he said. "But I think it is one nation under God. And I will ask at school why we don't say it."


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