Members of the U.S. Congress and the president are reacting strongly to a U.S. federal appeals court decision declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The Senate unanimously (99-0) passed a resolution expressing lawmakers' strong disapproval of the ruling.
The resolution, which does not have the force of law, calls on the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court to rehear the case. It calls on the Senate's legal counsel to intervene in the case to defend the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The resolution states the Congress believed it was acting constitutionally when it revised the pledge to include the words 'under God.'
The Senate, known to take weeks or months to pass legislation, approved this resolution within hours of the appeals court ruling. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, said, "I think we need to send a clear message that the Congress disagrees, the Congress is going to intervene, the Congress is going to live up to the expectations of the American people."
Republican Senate leader Trent Lott of Mississippi was also quick to criticize the ruling. "This is obviously an unbelievable decision as far as I am concerned, and an incorrect ruling, and a stupid ruling," he said. "Either it has got to be overturned by the Ninth Circuit or a higher court, or we will do it in the Congress."
Reaction from the White House was also swift. With President Bush in Canada, spokesman Ari Fleischer called the ruling a wrong decision, and said the Justice Department is assessing what action it can take to amend the situation.