Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

By God, there goes "under God" again

A district court judge in San Francisco, feeling appropriately constrained by 9th Circuit precedent, has found it unconstitutional for public school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance:

A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday it is unconstitutional for public school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. 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's bound by precedent set by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2001 that it was unconstitutional for the Pledge to be recited in public schools. The Supreme Court threw out that case, ruling that Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow had no standing to bring the legal action. Newdow objected to the words "under God" in the pledge. Newdow brought the second case to the federal court -- this time, representing unidentified parents and their children. Wednesday's decision sets up another constitutional showdown over the pledge.
When I was in public school, no one thought anything of having us recite the Pledge, nor was their any objection to us singing every morning the first verse of that lovely Patriotic Hymn "My Country 'Tis of Thee" -- even though it sanctioned a Protestant denomination by referring to the "Pilgrims." Frankly, I understand the atheist push here to delete all references to God from public discourse. The Founding Fathers simply wanted to keep Church and State separate, knowing that when States interfere with Churches, they tend to damage religious integrity. Atheists, however, believe that there is no God, and that any mention of God amounts to State indoctrination that God actually exists. I doubt whether the Establishment Clause was ever intended to deny God's existence; it was simply intended to deny the State power to coerce people who believed in that existence to follow one religious approach over another. By the way, as a good product of the liberal Bay Area, when I was 8 or 9 and recited the Pledge, I was personally unimpressed by the reference to God. I didn't feel coerced, I just didn't feel committed, so my voice simply fell silent for "under God" and then resumed after that. Certainly, it would have been easier on us all if the 1950s hadn't seen the introduction of those words, since the debate over "under God" tends to interfere with the Pledge's real purpose: to affirm that we are all Americans, to remind us of bedrock principles (Liberty, anyone? Justice?) and that, even in a liberal, PC-driven democracy, we have duties as a citizen to our State:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
Incidentally, if you go here, you get a really nice little education about the pledge, from its inception to its present-day incarnation.