President Bush is personally stepping into the controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag. A federal appeals court in California has ruled the daily recitation of the pledge in public schools is unconstitutional because the oath includes the words "under God." The court said it is a violation of the constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state

The president's first public comments about the ruling came at the start of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Canada. Mr. Bush did not wait to be asked by reporters and seemed eager to speak.

"I think the Almighty is obviously an important part of my life," Mr. Bush said, "but also a very important part of the life of our country. And that is why the ruling of the court was out of step with the traditions and history of America."

The president said he intends to appoint judges to the federal bench who would rule differently. "We need common sense judges," Mr. Bush said.

When asked about the importance of religion in his own life, Mr. Bush referred to his visit Tuesday to the state of Arizona, where massive forest fires have forced many people to evacuate their homes. "I was amongst people whose lives were hurting a lot," he said, "And I was trying to figure out how to bring a sense of hope, and I thought that the best thing I could say was that there is a God who loves them. And I believe that is the case."

Wednesday's decision by a federal court in San Francisco is subject to appeal and could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.