SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A much-maligned ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance is on hold while a federal appeals court decides how to deal with calls for a rehearing in the case.
Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, who wrote the 2-1 opinion that said schools cannot have students recite the pledge, prevented it from taking effect until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether it wants to alter course. He gave no reason.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday the Justice Department will request a hearing by an 11-judge panel.
The appeals court can rehear the case with the same three judges, or an 11-judge panel. Goodwin's action has no immediate result, since the ruling already was on hold by court rules for 45 days to allow for any challenges.
Goodwin stunned people across the political spectrum when he declared that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because the phrase "one nation under God" amounts to a government endorsement of religion. The words "under God" were inserted by Congress in 1954 after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic organization.
Given the public outrage over the initial ruling, Goodwin wanted to make clear that children, for now, are not barred from reciting the pledge in class, legal experts said.
"This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill decision," said Douglas Mirell, a Los Angeles-based constitutional law attorney. "Extraordinary cases may require extraordinary measures in order to clarify for the public and the world exactly what the results of the case are."
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