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District pledges to fight ruling

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited loud and clear Monday night at the first meeting of the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education since a court ruled June 26 that the words "under God" make the pledge unconstitutional.

"We're committed to go to the U.S. Supreme Court," to fight the decision, district Superintendent David W. Gordon said.

Elk Grove is in the national spotlight because the suit calling the pledge unconstitutional was filed by Dr. Michael Newdow, a Pocket-area resident whose daughter is enrolled in the Elk Grove district.

In a statement Gordon read to the board just before it and dozens of people attending the meeting recited the pledge, Gordon said Newdow alleged in his suit that the phrase "under God" had "inappropriately pushed religion on children in classrooms where the pledge was routinely recited."

Gordon declared, "We believe that the words 'under God' included in the pledge do not constitute pushing religion on our students.

"Under California law, parents have an absolute right to opt their children out of saying the pledge. And I am proud that in Elk Grove schools, our principals and teachers do a great job of making sure that students who have opted out of the pledge are not embarrassed or ostracized."

The superintendent said the pledge "is an important centerpiece of our Board of Education's efforts to instill in our young people the understanding and appreciation of our democracy and civic values.

"We work hard here in Elk Grove to teach our children that we live in a great country and that part of your responsibility as a citizen is to participate in our democracy and to give back to your country and community."

Noting that students in every school in the Elk Grove district responded following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by holding fund-raising events and taking other steps to help those in New York and Washington, D.C., Gordon said, "No one directed them (students) to do so. Their efforts came from their hearts as Americans. The people they were helping lived 3,000 miles away, but they, too, were Americans, and they were in need."

Last week, after much public outry, the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court was put on hold by a federal appeals judge.

Gordon said district officials will press to have a rehearing of the ruling before the Ninth Circuit Court and will, "if necessary," take the case to the United States Supreme Court.

"And we will try to do this not as a dry and dusty legal exercise, but as something that is at the heart of our district's and our nation's commitment to preserving our great democracy", Gordon said.

Board member Brian D. Myers praised board president William H. Lugg and Gordon during the meeting for doing "a marvelous job" of publicizing the district's position on the pledge issue. The two men have represented the district on numerous local and national news programs since the court ruling.

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Dirk Werkman can be reached at (916) 685-3000 or .

"We're committed to go to the U.S. Supreme Court."

David Gordon

Elk Grove superintendent