A California court's decision rumbled in Columbia County, where some school officials questioned the ruling.
"The Ninth Circuit said that the pledge is tantamount to a prayer," said said Columbia County School System Attorney Bill Fleming. "The Supreme Court has for a long time held that a minimal mention of religion or God is perfectly acceptable. ... So the Ninth Circuits opinion is pretty much in direct conflict with other case law."
Last Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the phrase "under God" violates the separation of church and state. Later in the week, the lead judge in the case delayed the ruling until a hearing can be scheduled.
Fallout was quick and - in most cases - harsh. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker weighed in, saying Georgia school children will be allowed to continue to say the pledge.
Several in Columbia County agreed with the his opinion.
"We actually have judges who call things unconstitutional, but they actually have no idea what the Constitution says," said retired Army Col. Patrick Rivette, the senior JROTC instructor at Evans High School. "The Constitution says we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
Pastor Bill Harrell, who has been at Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez for 21 years, is confident that the decision will be overturned.
"The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California is the most liberal court of appeals in the nation and (their decisions) have been reversed more than any other in the nation. I think that it is ludicrous for judges such as these to do more social engineering than interpreting of the law," the Harrell said. "I am encouraged by the number of members of the House and Senate who have condemned this ruling.
"The last time I checked we are governed by majority rule. If there are people who do not want to live by majority rule in this country and what the people of this country deem proper, then I suggest that these people move somewhere else or just simply don't say the pledge," Harrell said.
All county commissioner's meetings in Columbia County begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. Outgoing Columbia County commissioner - and current commission chairman - Jim Whitehead said that he would continue to say the pledge as it is written.
"It's probably best that I'm not running for re-election because they would just have to put me in jail if I can't say the Pledge of Allegiance the way it was written," Whitehead said. "I just think that they've taken everything too far and it's time for good God-fearing people to stand up and do what should be done about this and say that we've had enough."
Former Congressman Doug Barnard called the ruling, "absolutely absurd."
"This very liberal court in California certainly will not change the laws or the attitudes of the people of our country," Barnard said.
But not everyone was opposed to the ruling.
Charles Heywood, Lakeside High School debate coach and the Columbia County School System's 2001-2002 Star Teacher, said the decision was correct but would probably be overturned.
"In the wake of Bush versus Gore, we can be fairly assured that this Supreme Court will do the politically expedient thing and overturn the Ninth Circuit," he said.
Heywood said he has read the judges two-to-one decision.
"The justices were very careful in basing their interpretation on a series of fairly recent Supreme Court decisions - striking down school prayer, striking down prayers at graduation ceremonies and that sort of thing - to arrive at this," he said. "Which is saying to the Supreme Court, if you have courage of your own logic and convictions, you are going to have to agree with us."
He said the decision follows the Constitution.
"The Constitution is a godless document and that was by design. At the time the Constitution first promulgated in 1789, there was strong protest from the religious community on that point," he said. "What's good for the U.S. Constitution should be good for the Pledge of Allegiance."
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