Thursday, September 15, 2005

Newdow vs. The United States Congress

This was bound to happen. The Constitution is rather explicit on the Establishment Clause, thus creating the boundary between Church and State. The question is if the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" term is more about the history of the country, or an attempt of the government to condone religion. If you were to ask my kids about the issue, 98% of them think the issue is idiotic and that "under God" is more about the history than the religion.
I find it interesting that Newdow et al. feel like "political outsiders" when visiting American classrooms. I feel like a political outsider every time I pass the medical marijuana clinics in town. Can I get a little enforcement of those laws please?
In the end, the majority opinion on why the court ruled as it did was simply to point to the Appeals Court ruling in 2002, which struck down "under God" as being unconstitutional. The court stated that saying the pledge in a public high school, "impermissively coerces a religious act." When you look at the case in terms of straight law, the court is correct. Whether you passionately hate the ruling, in this instance the court ruled as it is supposed to rule, by using the Constitution and precedent in prior case law. Remember, we are not talking a student voluntary reciting the Pledge in the classroom, we are talking about school lead recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. In another part of the case, the judge threw out the motion to make it illegal to recite the Pledge at school board meetings. In the opinion, the judge stated that there are definite differences between a child having to attend school, and an adult voluntarily attending a school board meeting.

But the last subtext of the opinion was the best part of the case, and the part that showed that the judge knows what he is doing. It is an excellent point.

This court would be less than candid if it did not acknowledge that it is relieved that, by virtue of the disposition above, it need not attempt to apply the Supreme Court's recently articulated distinction between those governmental activities which endorse religion, and are thus prohibited, and those which acknowledge the Nation's asserted religious heritage, and thus are permitted. As last terms cases demonstrate, the distinction is utterly standardless, and ultimate resolution depends of the shifting, subjective sensibilities of any five members of the High Court, leaving those of us who work in the vineyard without guidance. Moreover, because the doctrine is inherently a boundaryless slippery slope, any conclusion might pass muster. It might be remembered that it was only a little more than one hundred ago that the Supreme Court of this nation declared without hesitation, after reviewing the history of religion in this country, that "this is a Christian nation." As preposterous as it might seem, given the lack of boundaries, a case could be made for substituting "under Christ" for "under God" in the pledge, thus marginalizing not only atheists and agnostics, as the present form of the Pledge does, but also Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Confucians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious adherents who, not only are citizens of this nation, but in fact reside in this judicial district.

Bravo to the American justice system for having the balls to get it right on this day. Do I agree with the ruling? Not really, I think it is nit-picky. I think Newdow is an idiot, and I think his motives are not in the best interest of anyone except himself. However, that doesn't matter. The court got it right, and the judge explained his plight very well. And as he said, it will eventually go to the Supreme Court, where they will get to deal with this touchy issue, one that truely has no litmus test.

Personally, I don't agree with the "under God" term in a public school either, but I don't think that it is controversial enough for the Courts to deal with. I think the historical importance of the pledge overrides the religious context of the saying. In fact, the concept of "under God" in the pledge is much more nationalistic than theological. Student are under no obligation to recite the pledge, and I feel that is enough.

But I will remain smiling, for today the reverse of Hurricane Katrina took place. Today, the system worked.
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