From the Colorado Legislature to the Federal Courts and Back Again
7, 2003. Mandatory Pledge of Allegiance bill is passed by the
3, 2003. Governor Owens signs the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance
Bill into law.
6, 2003. The mandatory Pledge law takes effect.
12, 2003. The American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado sues
in federal court on behalf of three students and six teachers contending
that the mandatory Pledge law violates their free speech rights.
15, 2003. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock temporarily
blocks implementation of the law. In making his decision for a full
hearing of this issue, the judge read extensively from the 1943 U.S.
Supreme Court case, West
Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, in which the court
held that the government cannot impose a compulsory pledge requirement
on all school children. They found that to do so violates the free speech
of children of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Owens responded to Judge Babcock’s initial ruling by saying, "The
court’s action is dramatically out of step with the desires and
practices of most Colorado who value and respect the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is important to note this order is temporary. When the trial begins,
we look forward to arguing the case on its merits and establishing the
constitutionality of this simple and common-sense law (Denver Post,
August 17, 2003)."
22, 2003. State of Colorado lawyers ask Babcock to extend his
temporary block through the end of the next legislative session until
a new Pledge law can be crafted and take effect. Judge Babcock agrees.
2004. Pledge of Allegiance law will be reconsidered in the
2004 Colorado legislative session.
up on the moot court activity by having students:
(1) research other Pledge-related cases decided since 1943; and
(2) compare the Colorado law and the West Virginia requirement. You
might have students role-play arguments in the Colorado case using the
information they have gathered and then take a position on how the courts
will ultimately find in the Colorado case.
study of the Barnette decision, students can review the briefs filed
by the State of Colorado and the American Civil Liberties Union in Lane,
et al. v. Owens, et al. and conduct a modified moot court on the Pledge
law. For classroom assistance in conducting moot courts, contact Sarah
Wagner, Assistant Director of Public Legal Education, Colorado/Denver
"Under God and the Pledge of Allegiance"
may have interest in the 2002 ruling of the 9th Circuit Federal Court
for the Eastern District of California in Michael
P. Newdow v. United States. Two Colorado teachers, John Zola
and Jason Barnes, have developed a lesson plan focusing on the question,
"Should the phrase 'under God' be retained in or removed from the
Pledge of Allegiance?" Through a series of readings, students develop
an understanding of the arguments supporting and opposing the inclusion
of this phrase in the Pledge. They then write a persuasive letter advocating
a position on the phrase. A class discussion culminates the lesson.
To get a copy of this lesson, contact Jason