We have another instance in which current events provides something relevant to the series of blogs I have been posting on a new atheist strategy.
Actually, it goes beyond this series.
Since nearly the first days of this blog - well, actually in pieces I wrote before I even started this blog - I have argued that atheists should quite the obviously failing attempt to challenge "under God" on the basis of separation of church and state, and to challenge it as a government sponsored message derogatory to atheists.
Actually look at what the Pledge states. It equates atheism with secession, tyranny, and injustice as four things that all patriotic Americans would oppose. Where "under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" get equal billing as things that all patriotic Americans pledge to bring about, "atheism, secession, tyranny and injustice" are the things that all patriotic Americans pledge to oppose.
Well, finally, a lawyer in Massachusetts has filed a case in Massachusetts court that follows this recommendation. I am not saying anybody there got the idea from my writings, but I am pleased to see that it is being done.
The message from the attorney precisely is that:
"The exercise itself discriminates against them," [attorney David Noise] said of his clients. "There is a religious truth claim within the daily patriotic exercise. Patriotism is defined in terms of religious truth. If you are a patriot, you believe in God; if not, you are a second-class citizen.
I have argued that a large part of the hostility that atheists experience is because the government is involved in a project of preaching to the youngest Americans the message that all true patriotic Americans support a nation "under God", and those who do not support a nation "under God" cannot be thought of as good Americans. These are lessons that young children learn at an emotional level - and become prejudices they carry to them to adulthood.
Even those who later become atheists still suffer the emotional effects of having learned as a child to view atheism as something bad. This keeps them closeted and politically impotent, because they do not want to share their embarrassing secret with the public at large.
This second-class citizenship claim is easily demonstrated by looking at how this pledge is being used to keep atheists out of public office. Because all patriotic Americans support a nation "under God", no atheist is fit to serve in public office. In practice, this filter is 99.8 percent effective at keeping atheists out of the legislature. The vast majority of atheists realize it is futile to run for public office simply because of this government-sponsored and endorsed bigotry against atheists.
Another part of my argument has been that we need to make sure that we conduct this battle not only in the courts, but in the press. We have had a history of giving our objections to the judge, who then announce their decisions - without any public support from the rest of us. As a result, religious bigots have been able to dominate the press and, in doing so, generate a great deal of public hostility towards judges. Over time, this pressure has brought about a political shift in favor of judges who simply promise to see these acts of religious discrimination as constitutional.
If a court victory becomes a means by which the religious right rallies to replace "activist judges" to those less inclined to support the separation of church and state, a judicial victory would do more harm than good. The way to combat this is for us to make the effort to make sure that our friends, neighbors, and those who read our posts and blogs understand the point being made - that it is wholly unfair to equate atheism with secession, tyranny, and injustice.
Back when I thought that an earlier case would be released that opposed "under God" in the Pledge, I wrote a series of articles discussing the claims one might find in the press and responses to those claims.
I create a table of contents for these postings that can be found at The Pledge Project: Table of Contents.
I invite you to use this as a possible source in helping to discuss this issue in the press - so that the public can see why a judicial decision in our favor is the right decision.