Thursday, March 11, 2010

Court Upholds 'Under God' and 'In God We Trust'

This is a decision a long time in coming.

Ninth Circuit upholds Pledge of Allegiance in public schools

Some long-term readers may remember a series of posts that I wrote when I expected this issue to be decided nearly two years ago.

The Pledge Project

From the beginning, this decision runs into problems.

After reporting that they hold that the Pledge does not constitute an establishment of religion prohibited by the United States Constitution, the majority writes:

the Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God - the Founding Fathers' belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; indivisible - although we have individual states, they are united in one republic; with liberty - the government cannot take away the people's inalienable rights; and justice for all - everyone in America is entitled to "equal justice under the law.



In this paragraph, the majority all but declares that the contents of the Pledge of Allegiance is not just a description of some historical event. It is a prescription. It is not merely a statement about, "here is how things happen to have been" but a statement about, "here is how things should be in the future."

So, how is it the case that a statement, by the government, that the citizens should proudly support the ideal of one Nation under God not constitute an attempt by the government to establish a particular attitude towards God and the relationship between the nation and God?

Well, it is pure nonsense.

Yet, history shows us how people can embrace pure nonsense when it yields a desired conclusion. They can write a glaring contradiction into the first page of an appeals court opinion and not see the glaring contradiction they have written. Even though it is as plan as writing on the first page of the opinion that 2 does not equal 2.

By calling these ideals, the Court itself is taking sides in declaring that these four qualities are to be found in all good (ideal) American citizens - a belief in a unified republic with liberty and justice for all that is a nation under God.

Any citizen that does not meet these criteria, according to the majority, fall short of the measure for an ideal American. We could say that those who hold all four of these ideas are what we may call first-class citizens. While, those who only accept three out of four may be put in a lower, second class of citizenry.

I will have more to say on this issue as I go through the arguments.

1 comment:

Martin Mapes said...

I wrote a couple of letters to the editor. I can probably only use one.

I hereby offer this letter to anyone who wishes to use it, under your own name, assuming it conveys what you believe. Feel free to change anything to make it sound like your own voice.


The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance does not count as an establishment of religion prohibited by the constitution.

If someone were born yesterday, that would seem a reasonable conclusion. But given that the words "under God" were added in 1954, the two non-dissenting justices had to make some logical contortions to pretend that the words "under God" don't really have anything to do with religion.

Their plausible-sounding explanation goes like this: the founders used the words "endowed by their Creator" to explain that that our rights as individuals come from that creator. Even the government cannot do anything to take those rights away, since they weren't granted by the government in the first place. The real meaning of "under God" has nothing to do with God. "Under God" is an expression of individual rights and a declaration of humility from the government.

Yeah, right.

The dissent puts it rather more bluntly: "Surely, our original Pledge, without the McCarthy-era effort to indoctrinate our nation’s children with a state-held religious belief, was no less patriotic. [...] The only difference between the original secular Pledge and the amended religious version is that the former did not subject, and was not designed to subject, our children to an attempt by their government to impose on them a religious belief regarding the existence of God."