Skip to comments.Put down your torches and pitchforks; Pledge ruling was right
Posted on 07/01/2002 4:20:03 PM PDT by seamus
Date published: Mon, 07/01/2002
THE HOPELESSLY LIBERAL judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sure picked a great time to declare the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutionalwhen we are at war, and just a week before the first post-9/11 Fourth of July celebrations that promise to be the most patriotic and heartfelt in a generation.
But bad timingand the near universal screaming and rending of clothing over this decisiondoesnt mean it is necessarily wrong.
Granted, whenever any decision is handed down by this loony bunch, the proper initial reaction is contempt and ridiculesuch as when it ruled in 2000 that a cross-dressing illegal Mexican immigrant was entitled to political asylum.
And these judicial geniuses have been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court more than any other circuit courtoften unanimouslyfor decisions that tend to invent new laws out of whole cloth, or set free the obviously guilty on the grounds that police got lucky when searching for evidence.
So it was entirely predictable to hear every politician in Americano matter their political stripedenounce the ruling when it was handed down Wednesday.
No politician in his right mind could behave in any other way. They all have nightmares of endless campaign commercials saying, My opponent doesnt want your kids to be able to pledge allegiance to the land our fathers died to protect.
Thatll end a promising political career faster than being caught having an affair with an intern who later turns up murdered.
But in the days that have passed since the decision, I have yet to hear a cogent explanation as to how this ruling is inconsistent with years of Supreme Court precedent regarding the separation of church and state. And as one who thinks most Supreme Court decisions regarding the separation of church and state are way out of line with common sense, I was hoping to hear one.
Instead, the outrated ask, Whats next, taking In God We Trust off our currency? Ending the practice of saying prayers before every session of Congress?
Well, if the Supreme Court wants to be consistent, yes.
The Pledge of Allegiance states that we are one nation, under God. No amount of bluster about patriotism, currency, or the singing of God Bless America at a baseball game changes the fact that such a statement refers to theismbelief in a single supreme being.
While the pledge does not refer to a single religionbe it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or even tree worshippingit is still a reference to the belief in a single god. And the First Amendment tells Congress it shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Not a religion, but religion in general. One could argue that such a vague reference to theismwhich our Founding Fathers adhered to and even referred to in the Declaration of Independenceis no big deal. But in a basic sense, the pledges under God clause seems to violateif only a smidgenthe separation of church and state. It establishes a state-endorsed view in theism.
Dont get me wrong. I abhor the attempts by oversensitive civil libertarians to cleanse public society of all public religious expression lest atheists become offended. We have no right to escape offense, even though many courtseven, sadly, the Supreme Courthave used such a standard in many important free-speech cases.
And it doesnt even really matter that this case was brought forth because an atheist in California was offended that his child might say under God in a public school or be stigmatized for not saying it (the irony is that the little moppet actually liked saying those words).
When someone can prove to me that the government is not behind the recitation of the pledge, then Ill change my mind. As of this writing on Friday morning, Ive yet to hear any of the outraged multitudes leap that logical hurdle. And stating that kids can opt out of saying the pledge is a nonstarter. Individual participation is irrelevant; the states participation and directionwhich is undeniable hereis the key question.
This is not to say that our courts have always been right on churchstate issues. To the contrary, I thought the Supreme Courts ruling forbidding valedictorians from invoking God during commencement addresses, or football players saying prayers in the locker room before a game, did not breach the unholy firewall.
In both instances the students, acting independently, were trying to enjoy their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
The idea that we all must become atheists while standing on the grounds of a public school actually violates our freedom of religion rather than protect it.
The state should not be allowed to tell anyone, even public school students whose rights are regularly trampled by courts, that they cannot express their belief in Godeven to a captive commencement audience.
In fact, this pledge ruling does not mean that little Kaitlyn cant recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school. She could even form a Pledge of Allegiance Club, and walk out to the flag pole during recess and recite away, the under God included, to her hearts content.
The court merely stated that the words under God, which endorse a religious belieftheismcant be in the pledge led by the state.
This decision is entirely consistent with a citizens constitutionally protected right of religious freedom, and the prohibition of state endorsement of religion.
JAMES G. LAKELY is assistant editorial page editor of The Free LanceStar.
You've got it all wrong from head to foot, and your article has gone horribly pear-shaped. You have rendered an opinion whose pedigree cannot go back before the 1950s for any sort of grounding in the Founders or the received tradition of the nation. From the beginning Congress provided for chaplains, and the legacy of America embodied in laws, rulings, and the various papers of the Founding Fathers and the speeches of the presidents all show you and the bright eyed wonders of the Ninth Circuit Court have it all wrong. For shame, Seamus.
The founders clearly acknowledged that this was a nation founded "under God" or Providence. Many people today may not acknowledge God, but this dependence and acknowledgement of God is an important part of our national heritage. The atheists may not like it, but this is historical fact, and as Americans who love their country, they should be willing to acknowledge that historical fact.
I think the ideal situation would be for the case to get to the Supreme Court, and have the court clarify the Establishment Clause to allow the Pledge, allow valedictorians to recite a prayer during their speeches, etc. But the Court has created such a mess with stupid Establishment decisions over the years, this is unlikely. Instead, they'll probably declare the Pledge Constitutional and pretend it doesn't conflict with their previous decisions -- further muddying the waters rather than making them more clear.
Perhaps in the long run, the 9th Circuit has done the nation a favor.
Unfortunately, I think we'll be stuck with a poor interpretation of the Establishment clause for quite some time.
True that the Supreme Court made the mess and has the power to clean it up. But it is also possible to clean it up through a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court decisions since Everson that have misinterpreted the First Amendment.
I dont see how. The amendment doesnt say anything about prohibiting a state-endorsed view anyway it states that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Under God does not constitute an establishment of anything.
IMO, if you want to imagine a nation establishing a religion, think along the lines of the Church of England, complete with the Queen as its Supreme Governor who appoints church officials. That is an example of an establishment of religion.
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