Rely on high court to
overturn pledge ruling


A federal appeals court has upheld a three-judge panel's ruling that "one nation under God" cannot be recited in public schools as part of the Pledge of Allegiance.

PUBLIC school children in Hawaii and other Western states can continue to include "one nation under God" in their recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, knowing that the U.S. Supreme Court will protect them against an outrageous decision by a three-judge federal appeals panel, affirmed by a majority of the appeals court's 24 judges. This case will be added to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' disgraceful reputation as the most overturned federal appeals court in the land.

The 2-1 ruling written by Appeals Judge Alfred T. Goodwin last June created a public outcry by asserting that the pledge's reference to God amounted to government establishment of religion. The full court has compounded the embarrassment by upholding the ruling, forcing a further appeal to the Supreme Court. To his credit, Judge Richard R. Clifton of Hawaii was among the nine dissenters, signing on to an opinion casting the decision as "a grave error" that should be corrected by the high court.

Reciting of the pledge is voluntary in Hawaii's public schools -- any student is allowed to decline participation -- but is part of the routine in most classrooms. As part of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit's nine-state jurisdiction, Hawaii would have been forced to conform with the ruling if Goodwin had not extended the delay of its enforcement to allow an appeal to proceed to Washington.

The timing of the full appeals court's ruling is ironic, coming as the nation prepares for war in Iraq. God and country historically have been linked during times of crisis. American coins were first adorned with "In God We Trust" in the wake of the Civil War, and "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, during the height of the Cold War. The pledge became increasingly popular following the Sept. 11 attacks on America, as did "America the Beautiful" and the "Star-Spangled Banner," including "And this be our motto -- In God is our trust" in the final stanza.

Through the centuries, courts repeatedly have regarded such references to God as "ceremonial deism" that do not constitute government establishment of religion. It is up to the Supreme Court once again to remind the 9th Circuit judges of this long-standing interpretation of the First Amendment.


Sex offenders must be
allowed to rehabilitate


The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws that put sex offenders' names, photos and other information on Internet registries.

THE parading of sex offenders' names and photographs on the Internet has been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the rulings should not lead to a similar display by Hawaii authorities. The state Supreme Court made the right decision more than a year ago in finding that public registration of sex offenders violated the state Constitution.

All 50 states have some form of Megan's Law, patterned after a New Jersey law named for a young girl killed by a sex offender who was a neighbor. The Alaska and Connecticut versions require people convicted of sex crimes to register with the state or city where they live. Their names, photos and other information are published on Internet sites maintained by the states.

The Alaska display adds an extra layer of punishment on offenders, even though they have served their time in prison. U.S. Justice Anthony Kennedy said the law does not add the "shaming" punishment, akin to the scarlet letters of colonial times, to the offenders' burden. Instead, Kennedy called the display "dissemination of truthful information in furtherance of legitimate governmental objective," to inform citizens of a past offender's whereabouts.

In the Connecticut case, the high court ruled that states need not give offenders the chance to demonstrate at a hearing that they are not dangerous. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in November 2001 that people have that very right, under state constitutional protections.

Justice Mario Ramil wrote that an offender should have "a meaningful opportunity to argue that he or she does not represent a threat to the community and that public notification is not necessary, or that he or she represents only a limited threat such that limited public notification is appropriate." The state law made it almost impossible for a past offender to be released from the registry.

The Hawaii case involved a man who pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault for grabbing the buttocks of a 17-year-old girl in Waikiki. Such an action, while offensive, should not condemn a man to a lifetime of humiliation.

The state Supreme Court found the law to be in violation of the state constitutional right to due process, privacy, equal protection and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The federal court's ruling has no bearing on the state ruling because states are allow to extend state constitutional rights beyond those guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

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