The law vs. pandering

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2003

Mary Noble's recent letter regarding the Pledge of Allegiance shared some interesting information about its author and how it came to be adopted in American life. In response, Guy Crockroft's letter countered with invective and mostly irrelevant information. Not only does the Constitution contain no mention of God whatsoever, the Bill of Rights expressly forbids Congress from making any law establishing religion in the public arena.

The fact that most of the founders of the Constitution were probably religious Christians is pertinent when considering this issue, but only to illustrate their foresight in the importance of establishing a secular government.

Ninth District Court Judge Alfred T. Goodwin (a 79-year-old Nixon appointee) wrote in their recent decision that:

"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god.' "

Therefore, they have concluded that the addition of "under God" in the pledge forces schoolchildren to swear allegiance to monotheism, which establishes an identity and existence of God that excludes those who have other religious beliefs or none at all. (According to a recent survey, 14 percent of Americans are not religious.)

In response, Congress has introduced resolutions to amend the Constitution in order to codify the motto "In God we Trust" and to allow the current pledge to be recited in schools. These actions, instead of their shameless pandering to constituents with meaningless sound bytes attacking an obviously unpopular decision, are most significant when considering this controversy. It would be convenient if there was a simple litmus test for patriotism or for what qualities define good citizenship. Individuals are free to conclude that certain religious beliefs are necessary requirements for such a person, but our government is held to a higher standard.

Bret Schmiege


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