Rah! Yea! Goooooooo, Separation of Church and State!
A federal judge declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday, [Wrong! The pledge itself wasn't ruled against, only the inclusion of the phrase "under God"] a decision that could put the divisive issue on track for another round of Supreme Court arguments.
The case was brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected last year by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."
Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
I know I am in a distinct minority, but I fully agree with and wholeheartedly support this decision. It restores my faith in an independent judiciary free from political pressure and dedicated to preserving the rights of the minority.
You will only hear that the pledge has been ruled unconsitutional, as this AP account repeats several times. EVERYONE will repeat this millions of times in the media.
But the fact is that this is a gross mischaracterization used to purposely mislead and inflame people. The entire focus of this case, the entire reason for the suit, the entire issue in the matter is the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge, NOT the pledge itself. The fact that they blatantly mischaracterize this issue really pisses me off.
It is NOT the pledge that was ruled unconstitutional per se. However, this will be the way it is reported incessantly, thereby causing people to assume that the court has ruled against a patriotic pledge being recited in schools based on it's patriotic sentiments, not, as is the case, on the fact that it induces children to recite a religious sentiment that they may not share.
While many of you having never known anything other than unquestioning acceptance of being a Christian since birth, and everyone you've ever known was supposedly Christian, it may be easy to have the attitude of "why take the phrase out?" It's not offensive to you or anyone you know, so you may find it offensive to take it out, or at the least, don't see the harm of leaving it in.
Though nobody asked, here is why I feel this ruling is correct, fair, and rational.
First, I don't feel that requiring kids who may be atheist or who don't call their particular "God", God, to recite "under God" is proper or constitutional.
The fact that people seem to have a hard time accepting is that religion should NOT be a part of government, nor public schools, other than to teach the various religions and their beliefs. Those who wish to have a religious component in their kid's education can, and do, send them to the religious school of their choice or simply rely on their church, mosque, or synagogue for their spiritual and religious schooling and worship.
The separation of church and state must not be allowed to be erroded, even slightly, as there are those who would work fervently to turn this country into a theocracy, including many in congress at the moment and many of the Bush appointed judiciary.
Secondly, while most of the public is likely unaware of it, the fact is that "under God" was not a part of the pledge until 1954. It was originally written in August of 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and contained no reference to God or religion. It was amended a few times before a lobbying campaign by the Knights of Columbus resulted in legislation adding the phrase "under God" which was enacted on Flag Day, 1954. Our country got along just peachy without the phrase "under God" for 62 years and will certainly get along just fine without it again.
The phrase likely means less than nothing to the kids who must repeat it mindlessly every morning. Taking it out won't lead them down the path to pagan debauchery. To suggest so is frankly stupid and ridiculous. Parents are responsible for their children's religious teaching and lives, NOT the schools.
The case is simply a childish tantrum by those seeking to inject religion into government on all levels and impose their beliefs on others. Whether the pledge contains the phrase "under God" is irrelevant. While the phrase has never had any affect whatsoever on anyone's spiritual preferences or religion, it's the phrase's percieved indoctrination value that both makes it a clear violation of separation of church and state and makes it so precious to those who fervently WANT to indoctrinate children into the Christian faith. They do so by trying to argue that the United States is officially God's Own Country, that it is somehow "officially" a Christian nation.
The fact is that ours is one nation (read government) under the constitution, not under any particular God. The constitution guarantees that the people of this nation are granted the precious freedom to worship and believe in God as they please, or NOT to worship or believe in any God. This is a cherished freedom, one of the primary reasons millions flocked to this country. The founders purposely forbid a state religion from being established, as official state religions and being forbidden from worshiping and believing as they pleased was one of the main reasons many people fled to America. Those who seek to pervert or erode this crucial constitutional right are seeking to pervert the document in a fundamental way. The court wisely realized this and ruled accordingly.
Christian faith may be a great thing. You may believe in it with all your heart and soul. But the fact remains that you do not have the right to expect the state to impose it on others, nor to have any government sponsored institution require anyone to recite a pledge which contains the assertion that this nation is "under God". The fact is that all of her citizens are free to believe it's over, beside, below, above, or nowhere in the vicinity of God. If you're a rational person, you realize the reasons for omitting "under God" from the pledge are actually there to preserve religious freedom, not deny it, as protecting the rights of non-believers is defending the freedom of belief, the same right that protects everyone's right to believe as they choose. The removal of the phrase "under God" really makes no difference other than symbolically anyway.
But sadly, the entire country will get in an ill-informed uproar, happily led by politicians seeking to endear themselves with the fundy-right, and who will compete with each other to demonstrate more outrage than the next.
As I witness this, I'll be very sad for a country that can't grasp a rather simple intellectual idea. That freedom of religion means freedom from religion as well. And I'll watch sadly as the aggressive so-called religious right (which as is said, is neither) rushes to distort the issue and pervert it into an attack on Christianity, which is patently silly and outrageous.
I suggest that the republic will survive without children sleepily mumbling "under God" every morning, just as it did for nearly 170 years before it was placed in the pledge.
For an excellent review of this issue in the courts, see The Pew Forum page.