That whole Pledge thing
As you’ve probably seen, Newdow is back again with his campaign to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Newdow may be something of a prick, but he does appear to be correct (but misguided) in this instance.
The Pledge has always had one fairly decent argument in favor of it’s current form: you can simply not recite it, or simply recite the parts that are unobjectionable to you. The argument is the same as for school prayer, but I the fact that the general thrust of the Pledge isn’t religious makes it a more reasonable argument here. Still, reciting the Pledge in school is coercive in the same way as teacher-led prayer, albeit not to the same degree. It’s much less coercive than school prayer, but coercive nonetheless.
My opinion then, is this: “under God” shouldn’t be in the Pledge, but there are bigger things to worry about. It seems to me that “In God We Trust” on our currency is worse. It’s only symbolic, which isn’t as offensive as coercion, but I think it trumps the Pledge’s small degree of coercion. I’m a bit uncertain as to how one would challenge it, though.
The wingnuts are out in full force, of course. Jerry Fallwell sees the country as being taken over by “militant secularists”:
America is experiencing a hostile takeover, an advancing conquest by abject secularists who believe – and demand – that our nation should be a religion-free zone that stifles all public religious expression. That movement experienced a surge this week when a San Francisco Federal District Court declared that the phrase “under God” in our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.
If the militant secularists want to redefine this nation in their own Godless imagine, they should at least be honest with the American people and admit that they are contradicting our nation’s extensive history of government-endorsed public religious expression, including National Days of Prayer, “In God We Trust” on our coinage, acknowledgment of the Creator in our Constitution and in countless other areas.
Fallwell really should do something about those hallucinations – there’s no acknowledgment of a creator in the Constitution.
David Limbaugh marks the occasion with a misleading quote:
Like it or not, the Constitution, rightly interpreted, allows the federal government (and the states) to “encourage” the Christian religion. As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) wrote, “Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution … the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State, so far as such encouragement was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”
Anyone who reads the quote can see the flaw: the general sentiment in America doesn’t say anything about the intent of our founders. Story seems to be something of a separationist, actually.
Like I said, Newdow is probably right, but there are more important things to worry about. Then again, irritating the hell out of fundamentalists has to count for something.