Remain faithful to American creed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I reflected upon the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in the light of the recent controversy involving the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States.

A panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on June 26, 2002, by a vote of 2-1, wrongly ruled that the inclusion of the phrase &uot;under God&uot; in the Pledge establishes a religion in violation of the First Amendment. We should remember a few important lessons about this ruling: The ruling is unlikely to stand; it does not affect current practices in the public schools of Alabama; and the ruling illustrates the importance of supporting President Bush in his appointment of conservative judges who respect the original understanding of the Constitution.

I believe the full court of appeals will reverse this decision and make it unnecessary for the Supreme Court to hear the case. The day after this remarkable ruling, Judge Alfred Goodwin, who wrote the majority opinion, put the ruling on hold to allow all of the judges on the full court of appeals an opportunity to review and reconsider the decision. This controversy reminds me of the decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals a few years ago that the motto of the State of Ohio&045; &uot;With God All Things Are Possible&uot;&045; violated the First Amendment, which the full court of appeals later reversed. Remember too that the Ninth Circuit is the most liberal and most often reversed circuit in the Nation.

The decisions of the Ninth Circuit do not govern Alabama; they affect only several states in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington). In Alabama, section 16-43-5 of the Code of Alabama requires the public schools to &uot;afford all students…the opportunity each school day to voluntarily recite the Pledge.&uot; In a case filed by Jehovah’s Witnesses against West Virginia officials, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that the public schools cannot require a child to recite the Pledge.

The most fundamental lesson of this controversy involves the importance of appointing qualified conservatives as judges of the federal courts.

In his campaign for election, President Bush promised to appoint conservative federal judges, and he has fulfilled that promise with dozens of nominations of highly qualified individuals. The leadership of the U.S. Senate and its Judiciary Committee, however, have refused to give many of President Bush’s nominees a prompt hearing and vote. We can be thankful that Sen. Jeff Sessions, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, strongly supports President Bush’s nominees, as does Sen. Richard Shelby.

The ruling of the Ninth Circuit illustrates how many people have ignored or forgotten the central meaning of the Fourth of July.

When we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we celebrate its enduring statement of the American creed: &uot;We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.&uot;

That creed &045; that we derive our rights from God &045; set out Nation apart from European countries where the prevailing philosophy was that the people derived from the king. When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, with the phrase &uot;one nation under God,&uot; we remain faithful to that American creed, upon which our liberty depends