Texas' state pledge, which includes the words "under God," does not violate the constitution, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
"The pledge is a patriotic exercise, and it is made no less so by the acknowledgment of Texas’s religious heritage via the inclusion of the phrase 'under God,'" the court wrote in its opinion.
David Wallace Croft and his wife, Shannon, along with two other unnamed parents of minor children, filed a lawsuit against the Texas governor after the state legislature amended the pledge to include, for the first time, the words "under God."
The amended pledge reads, "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."
Dean Cook, attorney for the Crofts, had argued that their children are harmed by recitation of the pledge, even if they are allowed to leave the room.
"Children are highly impressionable and subject to peer pressure," he said.
The plaintiffs contended that the new pledge favors monotheistic over polytheistic beliefs and endorses religious belief, and the recitation of it in schools impermissibly coerces religious belief. They also contended that the amendment does not have a secular purpose or effect.
After their motion was denied in 2009 in a federal district court, the parents appealed.
Dismissing the complaint, the court said the term God is "adequately generic to acknowledge a wide range of religious belief, monotheistic and polytheistic alike."
And as legislators have argued when introducing the amendment, the inclusion of the words "under God" was simply an act to mirror the national pledge and acknowledge the state's religious heritage – both of which are "permissible secular purposes," the court concluded.
Moreover, when looking at the pledge as a whole, the court found little reason to conclude that individuals who encounter the pledge would see it as an endorsement of religious belief.
"A reasonable observer would conclude that the pledge remains a patriotic exercise, intended to inculcate fidelity to the state and respect for its history and values, one of which is its religious heritage," it stated.
The court also concluded that the state pledge acknowledges but does not endorse religious belief.
"A pledge can constitutionally acknowledge the existence of, and even value, a religious belief without impermissibly favoring that value or belief, without advancing belief over non-belief, and without coercing participation in a religious exercise," it stated. "Texas’s pledge is of this sort and consequently survives this challenge."