updated 3/23/2005 8:04:50 AM ET 2005-03-23T13:04:50

A town trustee who refused to stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance during board meetings was voted out of office.

David Habecker lost the recall election Tuesday by a 3-2 margin, with 903 votes in favor of removing him from office to 605 in favor of keeping him.

Habecker is a 12-year member of the Estes Park governing board. The mountain community, located about 60 miles northwest of Denver, has about 5,500 residents.

The campaign to recall Habecker and his failed effort to block the election with a lawsuit have turned his personal values into fodder for public debate.

The scrutiny started in May, when the board began reciting the pledge after Trustee Lori Jeffrey-Clark suggested it would show respect for the country during wartime.

Habecker was caught off guard but rose and recited the pledge, omitting the phrase “under God,” according to his lawsuit. He became uncomfortable after several meetings and decided to remain seated.

Habecker, who describes himself as a free thinker, has said he is patriotic and doesn’t oppose the pledge’s meaning. However, he said the phrase “under God” violates his religious beliefs and is at odds with the separation of church and state, according to the lawsuit he filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.

In a March 2 ruling, federal Judge Edward Nottingham withdrew a temporary injunction blocking the recall election. He said the recall organizers did nothing wrong and that the town had remained neutral.

Nottingham said Habecker could pursue a lawsuit if he is recalled, which Habecker said Tuesday he is considering.

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