PLEDGE PROTECTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 19, 2006)
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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, at best this bill is a mistake. At worst, it is a cynical political stunt. Either way, it should not pass.
It seeks to end the ability of Federal courts--including the Supreme Court--``to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, the Pledge of Allegiance'' as the pledge is now worded.
It responds to a 2002 decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that both the 1954 law that added the words ``under God'' to the pledge and a local school district's policy of daily recitation of the pledge as so worded were unconstitutional. (The ruling later was modified to apply only to the school district's recitation policy.)
The Supreme Court reversed that decision because the plaintiff did not have legal standing to challenge the school district's policy. But the Republican leadership evidently finds the possibility of a similar lawsuit so alarming--or maybe they think it presents such a political opportunity--that they back this bill to keep any Federal court from hearing a lawsuit like that.
I cannot support such legislation.
It mayor may not be constitutional--on that I defer to those with more legal expertise than I can claim. But I have no doubt it is not only unnecessary but even misguided and destructive.
I have no objection to the current wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. After the Ninth Circuit's decision, I voted for a resolution--approved by the House by a vote of 416 to 3--affirming that ``the Pledge of Allegiance and similar expressions are not unconstitutional expressions of religious belief'' and calling for the case to be reheard.
But this bill is a different matter. It may be called the ``Pledge Protection Act,'' but that is inaccurate and even misleading--because it not only fails to protect the pledge but also would undercut the very thing to which those who recite the pledge are expressing their allegiance.
It doesn't protect the pledge because even if it becomes law people who don't like the way the pledge's current wording would still be able to bring lawsuits in state courts. So, even if Colorado's courts upheld the current wording, the courts of other States might not. And the bill says the U.S. Supreme Court could not resolve the matter.
That would mean there would no longer be a single Pledge of Allegiance, but different pledges for different States--and the Constitution's meaning would vary based on State lines. That would directly contradict the very idea of the United States as ``one Nation'' that should remain ``indivisible'' and whose defining characteristics are devotion to ``liberty and justice for all.''
And that would be completely inconsistent with the idea of the Republic (symbolized by the flag) to which we pledge allegiance when we recite what this bill pretends to ``protect.''
How ironic--and how pathetic.
As national legislators, as U.S. Representatives, we can and should do better. We should reject this bill.
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