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June 26, 2002

The Cult of the Pledge (or How I Learned to Rewrite the Establishment Clause)

Well it only took 48 years but the Federal judiciary in the guise of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance, as amended in 1954, is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Apparently the addition of the words "under God" render the Pledge a wicked tool of a government hellbent on establishing a national religion and oppressing the religious beliefs of all citizens, especially those of atheists in Sacramento, California.
In writing for the majority opinion, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin (thankfully no relation) claims "A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus', a nation 'under Vishnu', a nation 'under Zeus', or a nation 'under no god', because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion." Later in the opinion it is asserted that the words "under God" amount to an endorsement of monotheism, which oppresses atheists and polytheists. Let us amuse ourselves for a moment by taking the Ninth Circuit's opinion seriously and address some of the arguments they raise.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" followed by the clause "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The latter clause is regularly ignored by the Federal government as it oppresses those whose religion advocates human or animal sacrifice, refusing to pay taxes, or the taking of psychoactive substances, which raises some doubts about the judiciary's deep concern with protecting all religious beliefs. As to the Establishment Clause, the intent of that particular addition to the Constitution was as a bulwark against the Federal government establishing a national church in the semblance of the Church of England, or the Catholic Church in other European countries. Amusingly enough, one of the founders of our Republic actually took seriously the Tenth Amendment and went on to help establish a state-mandated church in Virginia... a move which was entirely legal and proper.
It is a recent invention of legal scholars and the courts that the "Freedom of Religion" doctrine, encompassing that portion of the First Amendment referencing the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, prohibits any display of religious iconography. In modern jurisprudence, it appears that the Freedom of Religion is now to be interpreted as the Freedom From Religion. So what next can we anticipate from the Ninth Circuit?
If the word 'God' offends the First Amendment protections of our citizenry, why then do we tolerate it on our money? Clearly the sentiment of the phrase "In God We Trust" (one assumes that after removing ourselves from the gold standard, God was all we had left to back our money) shows itself to be more onerous than the phrase 'under God' within the context of the Pledge of Allegiance. Note that the Federal Government refuses to allow us the freedom to print our own money so that we may escape this intolerable foisting of religion upon us, and demands that we pay our taxes with this icon of oppressive state-sponsored religion! Also, despite it being illegal in any school or public building, every single day that the Congress and Senate of the United States of America meets it is led by a religious leader in the oppressive wickedness of prayer! This madness must be stopped by our saviors on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals! Or not. Sadly, most of our country (including all three branches of the Federal Government) believes that we have some inborn Constitutional right to not be offended and in fact to be shielded from opinions, displays, and facts that disagree with our own opinions. The laughable assertion that the mere mention of "God" somehow establishes a national religion to the exclusion of all other faiths demonstrates the absurd state of legal scholarship in America today. If the Ninth Circuit wants to pick on governmental mention of God, let it take on the tax system that demands we tithe 40% of our earnings. As for me, I'm more comfortable with God... he only asks for 10%.

Posted by fallous at June 26, 2002 10:51 AM

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