Most of you in the atheosphere are aware of the recent 9th Circuit decision involving the Pledge of Allegiance, and the words added in 1954, “Under God”. For those of you who are living in a cave, or are more preoccupied with the ongoing story of Tiger Woods to care, Michael Newdow re-filed the lawsuit he originally won before the 9th Circuit back in 2003 (subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court on what you laymen call a technicality), asking the court to hold the phrase unconstitutional as against the 1st Amendment.
The most recent decision by the same Court came to the opposite conclusion than the one it arrived at 7 years earlier. This time, the Court found that there was nothing unconstitutional about requiring the pledge to be said, in its present form, before classes in the school district’s elementary schools.
We hold that the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause because Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose was to inspire patriotism and that the context of the Pledge—its wording as a whole, the preamble to the statute, and this nation’s history—demonstrate that it is a predominantly patriotic exercise. For these reasons, the phrase “one Nation under God” does not turn this patriotic exercise into a religious activity.
Most likely this will be appealed to the Supreme Court, again, which may or may not uphold the ruling . (My prediction: Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas will vote to uphold. Stevens, if he’s still there, will not, nor will Ginsburg and Breyer. Kennedy and Sotomayor I’m not so sure about. If Sotomayor votes to overturn, Kennedy, as usual, will be the swing vote.)
Here’s an opinion piece on the ruling that sparks my ire, written by a man named George Berkin, whose stupidity seems to know no bounds. Yet they let him write opinions anyway. Ain’t America grand!
In its rulings this week, the three-judge panel gave us many reasons to cheer, a celebration that should resonate from the West Coast to the nation’s capital and New Jersey.
Yea. Right. Hip-hip-horray for dumbasses. Berkin asks:
Why is it important that the pledge include those simple words acknowledging that the nation is under divine authority?
First, in contrast to what some secularists argue, including “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not somehow violate the spirit or the letter of the Constitution.
He supports this connection by first repeating the canard that use of the phrase does not “establish a state religion”, which he feels is the primary intent behind the 1st Amendment, and secondly, that its use does not mean that the government (he specifically refers to the federal government, though that is not a limiting factor in existing 1st amendment jurisprudence) is in any way stopping you from practicing your own religion.
And second, if you want to practice your religion, the federal government has no right to stop you from doing so.
Huh? This is just plain dumb. The issue is not whether one is allowed to say “under God” in the context of the Pledge, but whether the state can require that you say so in a setting in which the government is all but coercing you (or your child). Does anyone remember the school prayer cases?
It’s been long held that any state coercion of religious sentiment, speech or whatever is just exactly that – the establishment of religion in violation of the 1st Amendment. You have a right to practice your religion any way you want, and anywhere, and in any manner you think appropriate. But teachers hired by the state cannot require you to parrot religious speech.
Belkin tries, and fails, to maintain that the recitation of those words – words he acknowledges were not placed into the pledge until 1954 – are not religious, yet he shows his true religious thinking, and hence underscores the very religious nature of those words by claiming:
If a parent objects to the wording of the pledge, a child reciting with her classmates can easily remain silent for the half-second is says to say those “painful” two words. (Most children, if left untutored by adults hostile to religion, are happy to acknowledge the obvious – that the nation is under God.)
It may be obvious to him that the nation is “under god”, whatever that means (god always gets to be on top – how fair is that?) but the point of the church/state separation required by the 1st Amendment is that there are citizens for whom that is not obvious, and who would disagree with something even remotely resembling that notion. This country does not impose its majority views on the minority. The Constitution is there to protect the rights of the minority, not to entrench the prejudices, beliefs or superstitions of the majority.
Someone needs to explain to Belkin that the founding of this country was based on the proposition that it was not “under divine authority”, but under the authority of the people. Simply because many people believe in divine existence does not mean that the 1st Amendment should be thrown out. He claims that the Declaration of Independence declared that our freedoms were a gift from our “Creator God”, when it never said that.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Find a reference to a Creator God in there, will ya? I don’t know about you, but my creator’s names were Mom and Dad.
His statement that the term “under god” is a “simple non-sectarian acknowledgement (sic) of the divine”, is actually proof that it is not non-sectarian. How anyone can claim, in the same sentence, that the pledge acknowledges the divine and is non-sectarian, indicates the way the religious can compartmentalize nonsense. This is akin to apologetics, a field of theology that allows the human mind to be able to hold two diametrically opposing concepts as both equally true.
Finally, he descends into the pit of pure, unadulterated, blithering stupidity when he writes:
If that seems so much theory or dogma, consider the 20th century history of three nations that defiantly regarded themselves as most definitely not “under God” – Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Maoist China.
In those societies, rulers asserted that the state was the highest authority. Not being “under” a higher authority, those rulers found their power unchecked, resulting in millions of deaths. There was also no religious freedom.
Reading that, I can’t help but feel that there should be a requirement in New Jersey for people with access to typewriters and word processors to take an intelligence test. Or at least one involving history.
Besides, the biblical text says that God will bless those who honor him.
Yep. No religion there. And of course, the Bible is acknowledged worldwide and universally accepted as the basis for the US Constitution.
After reading something like this, I almost wish there was something to this prayer thing, because I could see me praying to the Supreme Court to overrule the 9th Circuit so that Mr. Belkin could eat his words.