Court ruling on Pledge of Allegiance condemned

A veteran, educators and elected officials condemned a ruling Wednesday by a federal appellate court that declared the recitation of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools unconstitutional.

John Nippins, commander of Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 3516 in Kingman, said he was "super-upset" by the 2-1 ruling of the 9th U.S.

Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

"I was so upset I threw things around my garage."

If affirmed, the ruling means that schoolchildren could no longer recite the pledge, at least in the nine Western states covered by the court.

Congress inserted "under God" in the pledge in 1954.

"That is just unbelievable because, good heavens, we believe in God," Nippins, a 26-year veteran of the U.S.

Navy, said.

"I don't know where this special-interest group comes from" that led to the ruling.

"But should they intrude on something that has been (in the pledge) for years."

He said the voters should have the right to decide the fate of the pledge.

Paul McCormick, a real estate agent and retired educator, was almost as outspoken.

He is president of the Kingman Republican Men's Club but aired his views as an individual.

McCormick said the two words in the pledge could apply to any religion.

"Christian, Jewish, Muslim, they all believe in a higher level," he said.

"One of the freedoms that we fight for (was) through the wars of the past, which has provided us the opportunity to unite us.

This is our means of expression through the pledge of our flag."

One of McCormick's former colleagues at City Hall and another retired educator, Kingman Mayor Les Byram, also resorted to religion in opposing the decision.

"It is further separating God and Christianity from our daily lives and governmental operations," Byram said.

Byram said he hopes the U.S.

Supreme Court will overturn the decision.

The Kingman City Council, Mohave County supervisors and other boards typically begin their meetings with prayers, some of which mention Jesus.

County Supervisor Pete Byers of Kingman said the wording in the pledge should not be changed.

"In its present state the Pledge of the Allegiance is as American as apple pie, and I believe it should stay in its present state and used in the schools," Byers said.

"I just believe that it is American."

Also criticizing the ruling were county schools superintendent Mike File, Carolyn Stewart of the governing board of the Kingman Unified School District and Tara Teichgraeber, press secretary for the Arizona Department of Education.

"It is an issue where we are depleting what our nation stands for, and in light of all tragedies that have taken place before and since 9/11, our nation needs to get back to our belief in God," File said.

"This certainly is disturbing because of the nature of why it was challenged by an atheist."

Stewart said the decision was "pathetic."

"People take guns to school, and no one wants to take responsibility for it, but put God in there, and some people have a fit," she said.

"We live in a no-fault world except where God is concerned."

Teichgraeber cited legal reasons for opposing the court ruling.

"There is no statute that requires a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Schools are required to make time for the pledge and display of the American flag, but students are not required to recite the pledge," she said.

Not everyone agreed.

Kingman resident Jim Morgan the court ruling is proper because he believes in the separation of church and state.

Like McCormick, he spoke as an individual and not in his capacity as second vice chairman of the Mohave County Democratic Central Committee and secretary of the Kingman Area Democratic Club.

"The Constitution is pretty clear on that," Morgan said.

"We are putting something religious into a government thing.

… I think the Founding Fathers knew what they did when they made the separation."

Morgan, a retired telephone company engineer, said he was raised a Methodist and is not an atheist.

"I have a strong belief in God, but it should be separate from government," he said.

Daily Miner reporter Terry Organ contributed to this story.