Michael Newdow vs The Pledge of Allegiance
[This is a repost. Original article and comment lost after the recent server move.]
The U.S. Supreme Court considers on Wednesday whether the words "under God" must be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance during its recitation in public schools, an important case on church-state separation.
I posted about this briefly last year, but now the case is going to the Supreme Court today.
Last Friday, I watched part of a discussion between Newdow and Aden on the merits of the case. C-SPAN (who cut out halfway through it to air something else, tha bastards) had coverage, as did the Washington Times:
A key court member in the matter of Elk Grove Unified School District vs. Newdow, the Supreme Court case contesting the controversial "under God" clause in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, participated in an American University forum Thursday to discuss the forthcoming dispute.
The discussion featured plaintiff Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif. atheist contesting the pledge's secularity, and Steven H. Aden of the Christian Legal Society representing the government's position. American University Law Professor Stephen Wermiel moderated the hourlong event.
If upheld by the Supreme Court, which will begin hearing the case on March 24, the omission would continue to apply in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, California and perhaps nationally. Justice Antonin Scalia, who publicly criticized the 9th Circuit's ruling, subsequently recused himself from the hearing, leaving the court with just eight justices to decide the case. A potential 4-4 decision in Elk Grove vs. Newdow would then carry the weight of a majority vote, thus continuing the ban.
© 2004 News World Communications, Inc.
Information regarding the case:
Where do I stand on this? I side with Dr. Newdow, especially after the ridiculous displays of faith GOP politicians went through after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the pledge to be unconstitutional.
When Michael A. Newdow urges the Supreme Court today to ban the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, he will be up against not only the Elk Grove (Calif.) Unified School District, where his daughter attends classes.
Newdow will also be battling the school district's supporters: the Bush administration, the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress, dozens of members of both the House and the Senate, the governments of all 50 states, the National Education Association, and even a group billed as "Grassfire.net and Hundreds of Thousands of Americans."
But the California atheist does have one advantage -- consistency.
An unabashed proponent of extirpating all religious references from public life, Newdow has no problem standing before the court and urging it to edit "under God" out of the pledge, even if that logic, extended, would probably doom "In God We Trust" on currency and even the cry of "God save the United States and this honorable court," with which the Supreme Court commences its work each day.
His opponents, by contrast, must negotiate a minefield of Supreme Court precedents that have interpreted the constitutional prohibition on the official establishment of religion to mean that government must stay neutral among religious beliefs, avoid actions that have the purpose or effect of endorsing any religious belief, and refrain from coercing individual citizens to express a religious belief.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Consistency and logic are what should rule the day, not how many people support keeping the pledge as it is, not about removing religion from "public life", and not about being anti-tradition. It's about keeping the government out of the religion business.
As I said back in my post about Texas passing a law requiring students to recite the pledge:
The fundamental question all people must face at some point is whether or not they believe in Gawd. Not any specific Gawd, but just whether they believe in one, many, or none. It's the fork in the intellectual road: faith in this or faith in this? To have those words in the Pledge of Allegiance is to have that choice made for us...to establish then and there that there is a Gawd and that Gawd has certain qualities. For example:I'd only change this from that passage: the fundamental question is to have faith or not. The substance of that faith is unimportant at this juncture. Once the establishment of faith is accomplished, you've taken the single biggest step. And when it's the state that is taking that step by making it obvious it assumes there is a Gawd, the state has lost it's neutrality.
It explicitly establishes a theocracy and I don't mean that as hyperbole. If the nation is "under God" then the nation, it's laws, and it's citizens are also "under God" as well, meaning we are subservient to It and lesser than It. Arguments that the insertion is a symbolic gesture miss the point entirely. The government has NO RIGHT to establish these things and certainly NO RIGHT to try and force people to follow them and recite them.
- It is concerned with human life.
- It protects those who merit protection.
- It has power that extends beyond human ability.
Even worse, you've got arguments saying that the reason this case is important is because the pledge affirms the idea that our rights are derived from Christianity. That stance is abhorrent on a number of grounds:
- If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then that entity can just as easily take them away, ending the notion that those are "rights" to even begin with.
- If rights are derived from the existence and will of a superhuman entity, then the creation of those rights is entirely arbitrary and have no basis other than the whim of the entity. They would be, in other words, floating abstractions and it would be logically perilous to attempt consistency based on such a foundation.
- How do we determine what religion is the "correct one"? I can't begin to delve into the problems this question creates.
Then there is the little problem I have of millions of children pledging Allegiance to a state that violates our rights every day.
Kick ass today, Michael Newdow. I hope you win.
A lengthy excerpt from the Court's proceedings is available from the NYT here.
Yeah, I heard about the court ruling in favor of the government and against Mr. Newdow...and on the rather lame grounds of not having legal standing to bring the case. But he won't take it sitting down.
Dr. Newdow isn't Giving Up
UPDATED 9/14/2005 3:11pm
Michael Newdow is at it again!
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton rules school pledge is unconstitutional