FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - JUNE 26, 2002

AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.

For more information, please contact:
Ellen Johnson, President
Ron Barrier, Dir. Communications

COURT DECISION STRIKING GOD PLEDGE IS VICTORY FOR SEPARATION, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS SAYS ATHEIST GROUP

A ruling earlier today by a federal appeals court striking down the "religionized" version of the Pledge of Allegiance protects individual liberties and the separation of church and state, an Atheist civil rights group declared.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a 1954 act of Congress inserting the phrase "under God" in the pledge violated the Establishment Clause, and coerced students.

"We agree 100% with the court," said Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. "Putting 'under God' in the pledge was as inappropriate as declaring our secular nation "under Zeus," Vishnu or any other deity."

"Government should stay out of the business of telling people whether or not they should acknowledge a particular deity," added Johnson. "The words 'under God' were not part of the original pledge, and they were inserted during the height of the cold war in order to establish a religious litmus test for patriotism."

Ron Barrier, Communications Director for American Atheists noted that the court decision acknowledged the coercive element of the pledge.

"Students who don't believe in a deity shouldn't have to worry about being bullied by classmates, or being marginalized in some way simply because they don't share a particular religious faith."

As to concerns that the decision might affect religious slogans on the nation's money, or in courtrooms, Barrier welcomed today's ruling. "I hope we can use this as a legal instrument to stop any government endorsement of religion, whether it's by putting 'In God We Trust' on money or hanging the Ten Commandments on a courthouse or school house wall."

"Religious belief should be a private matter, not something government enforces or endorses."

American Atheists is a nationwide movement defending civil rights for nonbelievers and the separation of state and church. It also addresses issues pertinent to First Amendment public policy.

American Atheists, Inc.
P.O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Tel: (908)276-7300
Fax: (908)276-7402
www.atheists.org