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A federal appeals court on Tuesday put on hold its ruling barring the recitation of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance in public classrooms, pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The order followed a request from the Elk Grove Unified School District near Sacramento, Calif. The daughter of the man whose suit led the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to find the pledge unconstitutional attends school there. Without Tuesday’s stay, public schools in nine western states would have been banned — beginning next Monday — from reciting the pledge, with its reference to “under God.” Those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The stay gives the school district 90 days to ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling. In June and again last Friday, the San Francisco-based appeals court ruled that the pledge is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion when recited in public schools. The Elk Grove district was the target of a lawsuit filed by Michael Newdow, a Sacramento atheist, who alleged that his daughter shouldn’t be forced to take part in reciting the pledge. In a case that bitterly divided the nation and the federal judiciary, the appeals court ruled in Newdow’s favor. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said the Justice Department would “spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge their allegiance to the American flag.” California law requires schools to conduct a patriotic observance at the beginning of each school day. Elk Grove officials had said they would have students sing the national anthem instead of the pledge if the appeals court did not delay its ruling. California Gov. Gray Davis has predicted the nation’s highest court will nullify the appeals court’s ruling, saying, “Surely the Supreme Court will permit schoolchildren to invoke God’s name while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.” Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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