Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Perspective on the Pledge: Book Available


Given that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may release its opinion on “Under God” and “In God We Trust” at any time in the next 3 months, and given worries that I have on what the aftermath to that decision may be, I have decided to make this book available now.

A Perspective on the Pledge

I have a link to a blog posting that became an earlier version of Chapter 1

And I spent a lot of time on this making it ready.

I am expecting that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will again declare ‘under God’ unconstitutional – and perhaps the motto ‘In God We Trust’ as well. Without some effort on our part, the results will be the same – politicians falling all over themselves to protect and defend the Pledge from ‘secularists’.

The traditional argument simply have no weight. People who would defend the 9th Circuit’s opinion would likely appeal to Separation of Church and State, as if this is some fundamental principle on which everybody agrees. In fact, in discussing the Constitutional issue, that is what they have to do.

If people do not like the law, there is an easy way to change it. That is to ignore it. People can then complain all they want about how the law is being ignored. However, the people want to ignore a provision in the law, and they insist on only electing politicians who appoint judges that will ignore it, then that part of the law will be ignored. That is a fact.

In this case, the 9th Circuit opinion, if they declare 'under God' unconstitutional, will be one of those provisions in the Constitution that people can and will change - not through the Amendment process, but by electing politicians who will appoint judges who will give the law the interpretation they want.

The decision would be a fundraising boon for the Republican Party and in particular for the most theocratic branch of the Republican Party. They will put that money to work telling people in every venue open to them – from the pulpit, from their radio shows, from their ‘news’ stations, from their newsletters – that the Constitution is not meant to protect people from religion.

Anybody who has faith that the people will see through the obvious errors in their argument and adopt a position of truth and reason simply has not been paying attention. If the people had such a power to see through nonsense, then we would not be facing so many of the absurdities that we hear today. Remember, half of Americans still believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. This hardly sounds like a group that has much of a capacity to see through illogical arguments.

Given that we no longer live in a country that views the separation of church and state as a foundational principle, it should no longer be considered sufficient to argue from this principle to any conclusion. Rather, we must assume that the population is hostile to this principle, and to offer its defense. It is necessary to argue the proposition, “If a separation of church and state never existed, why would a fair, just, and wise population find it necessary to invent it?”

If the next debate is held on the same terms as the last debate, we can expect the same result. We can expect that the marketing and the money of the religious right will help to ensure in this election, and the next, and the election after that, that no candidate can be elected who not only professes a belief in God, but who professes the superiority of those who believe in God over those who do not.

However, the story is not just about ‘under God’.

The story is about a government that funds, supports, and bars institutions that get public money from excluding an organization that says that you are morally suspect – morally inferior to other citizens based on a characteristic that has nothing to do with morality. It is a story about a country in which people routinely fill the air waves and print media with statements about your moral inferiority without anybody challenging the pure bigotry of such a claim.

It is a story about living in a country where the government makes it its pledge and motto to treat those in your group of incapable of patriotism.

It is a story about a country where people can put up signs that say, “Why does your group hate this country,” when members of your group have fought and died for that country.

It’s about being faced with all of these different forms of bigotry all wrapped together.

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announces its decision, I hope to hear a new set of arguments added to those that already exist.

I am hoping that the debate can go a little further with some new lines of reasoning becoming a part of the public discourse.

“You talk about it being wrong to keep God out of the public square, when ‘under God’ was added to the pledge and ‘In God We Trust’ was made the national motto for the purpose of keeping atheists out of public office. You cheer candidates who say that atheists are not fit to serve in public office.”

“’Under God’ was not meant to promote religion in the same way that ‘liberty and justice for all’ was not meant to promote liberty and justice for all.”

“’In God We Trust’ isn’t a way of telling Americans to trust in God in the same way that the Marine motto, Semper Fi is not a way of telling Marines to be faithful to their comrades in arms.”

“You have no right to declare that you are morally superior to others, and then to have the gall to say that the only evidence you have for this is your faith in your own moral superiority.”

It is my hope that the debate, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announces its decision, will not be a repeat of the things that were said when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced their last decision. I hope to see the arguments made on a new level.

I hope that this book can make a contribution to that end.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Alonzo!!!!

CrypticLife said...

"Anybody who has faith that the people will see through the obvious errors in their argument and adopt a position of truth and reason simply has not been paying attention."

Yes, quite obviously, given the response to similar arguments on the teacher's forum I visit. There are some horrible arguments. Perhaps most depressing was the vehement objections to changing it from a black preschool teacher, who completely ignored the actual analogy while questioning changing something that is "literally the fabric of our country" to "make one person happy". While doing it, she managed to cite Martin Luther King and the "In God we Trust" motto for "support" (yes, it's very twisted).

The comment thread (now closed, but viewable) is I guess I introduced it poorly. Perhaps I'll try again.

Looking forward to the book.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!!! You must feel an overwhelming sence of achievement...good for you!

Hume's Ghost said...

I was looking at the book description and thought it might benefit from very slight tweeking. Wouldn't the phrase "under God" indicate prejudice not just against atheists but agnostics and various forms of polytheism and animism and such?

Also, I have yet to read the book (which I will purchase and read when I get a chance) but I'm curious if the story also demonstrates that "God" in the Pledge is intended to be a wedge to establish this is a (right wing) Christian nation; this would entail prejudice against not just unbelievers but against whoever is in a position of power who gets to determine what "God" we are under. Of course, that might be beyond the scope of the purpose of the book/essay.

Hume's Ghost said...

last sentence should have read:

"not just against unbelievers but against believers as well, given that whoever is in a position of power gets to determine what "God" we are under.