THE U.S. CONSTITUTION & THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:
THE FEDERAL APPELLATE COURT'S RIDICULOUS DECISION
By Vin Suprynowicz
(Ironically, this even included many U.S. Senators on the political Left, who are refusing to let our current President fill federal court vacancies with judges of more moderate temperament.)
Yes, the issue has symbolic importance. But, believe it or not, there were other important matters dealt with in U.S. court decisions rendered during the last week of June--matters more likely to have practical longterm consequencies for the survival of our liberties. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with the constitutionality of school vouchers.
Meantime, the decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance recited in public schools was a dorky decision, penned by an out-of-touch jurist, who--apparently surprised at the response, astonishingly enough--the next day put his ruling on indefinite hold until fellow judges on the Ninth Circuit Court can decide whether to reconsider.
The lawsuit in question was brought by a California atheist who did not want his second-grade daughter to be forced to listen to recitation of the Pledge, but, of course, still wanted to loot his neighbors' pockets via taxation to pay for her schooling.
Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, writing the two-to-one opinion, stunned Americans across the political spectrum when he declared that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because the phrase "one nation under God," inserted by Congress in 1954, amounts to a government endorsement of religion.
The ruling will likely be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, if not reversed beforehand by the full Ninth Circuit Court, and I doubt they'll wait till Christmas.
"I would bet an awful lot on that," comments Harvard University legal scholar Lawrence Tribe.
Truth be told, the principle underlying Judge Goodwin's decision is an important and valid one. Non-believers or those of other faiths should indeed be spared having their children exposed, against their wishes, to religious indoctrination of a competing faith within government-run schools. Christians would presumably not want their children lobbied and indoctrinated there to become atheists or Zoroastrians, and the reverse is equally true.
Therefore, the problem with Judge Goodwin's ruling lies not in the underlying principle, but in the interpretation. The Founding Fathers mentioned "God" and "the Creator" with some frequency. Their goal was clearly to prevent any one faith being "established" as the "state religion," i.e., being set up and/or designated as the official religion of the government, a religious organization which would operate as a tax-supported institution. The Founders' goal was not to totally bar expressions of generalized faith in a higher being or power.
To ensure enforcement of the federal constitutional ban against "an establishment of religion," must we remove "In God We Trust" from our currency? Must we bar the singing at school rallies of patriotic songs like "God Bless America" or the third stanza of the national anthem? Must we even banish the phrase "So help me God" when presidents and judges are sworn into office?
Mind you, it would be refreshing to see the U.S. courts show this same kind of zealous dedication to other constitutional provisions, for a change.
Should not jury trials be restored in "all criminal prosecutions" as required by the Sixth Amendment, throwing out all plea bargains, along with Sandra Day O'Connor's absurd rationale that "It's OK to cheat the guy of his jury trial so long as the sentence for each count is less than six months"?
And what about the Second Amendment, where the lower courts have long allowed self-righteous bureaucrats to insist that "reasonable regulation" is fine? Why can't we find that phrase anywhere in our version of the amendment, which merely says the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed"?
If the courts were as zealous in guarding that right as they are in protecting the purported right to be free from hearing so much as a mention of an "established religion," the correct answer for any fourteen-year-old girl endeavoring to buy a beft-fed machine gun over the counter for cash at Home Depot would be: "No, you're not going to charge me any sales tax, and I don't have show you any stinking government 'license' or 'permit' either. Or would you like me to call the Bill of Rights Enforcement Squad, right now?"
Schooling children at taxpayer expense in one-size-fits-all, mandatory govenment institutions may indeed risk turning national patriotism into mindless, slavish, uncritical, and unquestioning acceptance of and compliance with the edicts of the political elite that controls the government--i.e., turning patriotism into something approaching a religion, a rather authoritarian religion. If the courts are really concerned, let them consider whether Leftwing Liberal political orthodoxy (better known as "Political Correctness"), political centralization, statism, environmentalism, secular humanism and moral relativism, as currently taught in government schools, constitute religions, and whether these doctrines aren't now so deeply ingrained that we have no choice but to sweep clean, establishing the same level of "separation of school and state" as the courts now enforce between "church and state."
Til then, dissidents and non-conformists are free to send their kids to private schools, to tutor them at home, or to instruct them merely to remain seated and hold their peace, while others "say the Pledge."
All these, previously endorsed and protected by the courts, are reasonable alternatives. Judge Goodwin's ban--on anyone saying the words "under God" while on public property--is not.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, a monthly contributor to SHOTGUN NEWS, author of THE BALLARD OF CARL DREGA, and publisher of the monthly newsletter, PRIVACY ALERT.
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