SAN FRANCISCO -

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency do not violate the separation of church and state.

In a 2-1 ruling, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges brought by Michael Newdow, who said references to God are unconstitutional and an infringe on the 1st Amendment.

Newdow, from Sacramento, is a doctor, an attorney, and founder of First Atheist Church of True Science.

Judge Carlos Bea, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2003, wrote the 60-page majority opinion, which stated schools do not require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Members of Congress, who wanted to distance the United States from "godless Communists," added the words "under God" to the pledge in 1954.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, appointed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, wrote the 123-page dissent.

Newdow said he would ask the appeals court to appeal the case. If his request is rejected, he said he'd appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.