One Nation Above God

Over the last two weeks, the newspapers have been full of articles over a Ninth Circuit Court ruling which states that the government has no right to compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because the pledge contains the words “under God”.

This ruling was prompted by a lawsuit brought by Dr. Michael Newdow. However, Dr. Newdow has not gone far enough; he has not dealt with the essence of the government’s unforgivable crime.

In San Francisco, on 27 June 2002, a federal appeals court panel composed of three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case brought by a Sacramento physician named Michael Newdow. Dr. Newdow is an atheist who filed suit because his daughter was compelled by public school authorities to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge of Allegiance was altered by act of Congress in 1954 to include the phrase “under God”.

Because school authorities required children to speak the pledge, Dr. Newdow thought that the government, through public school authorities, were imposing religious expressions upon his daughter in violation of the First Amendment to the United State Constitution, which reads in part:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel ruled in Dr. Newdow’s favor, stating that the government overstepped its Constitutional authority by slipping in religious expression through a back door built into the Pledge of Allegiance by President Eisenhower, who said, “Millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.” The dissenting opinion stated that the case did not merit the court’s attention, constituting an abstention rather than a true dissenting vote.

The resulting political furor was either a comedy or a tragedy, depending on whether one finds amusement in the stupidity and irrationality of American politicians or believes that the people chosen to lead the United States should rise above trivialities in order to lead the nation towards freedom and prosperity.

According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer,“The Supreme Court itself begins each of its sessions with the phrase ‘God save the United States and this honorable court,’” and “The Declaration of Independence refers to God or to the creator four different times. Congress begins each session of the Congress each day with a prayer, and of course our currency says, ’In God We Trust.”

Mr. Fleischer neglects to mention that nobody is coercing the Supreme Court to invoke the Judeo-Christian deity. Nor does he remember to mention that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a deist who condemned Christianity whenever given the opportunity. Such omissions on Mr. Fleischer’s part are to be expected; he is merely the President’s mouthpiece. As such, he is paid not to speak truth, but to speak lies pleasing to the President’s ears.

According to the Nando Times, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., called the ruling “just nuts.” Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said it was “political correctness run amok.” As neither of these distinguished gentlemen could be bothered to present a logical argument to back their comments, their opinions can be considered arbitrary and safely dismissed.

According to Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie, “We acknowledge the separation of sectarianism and state, but affirm the belief that there is no separation between God and state.” However, Mr. Ogilvie fails to explain who “we” are, in this case. Does he refer to the United States Senate, or the entire U.S. Federal Government? Does he presume to refer to every individual in the United States? Nor does he offer any explanation of the difference between a separation of “sectarianism and state” and a separation of “God and state”? Since Ogilvie makes claims without offering evidence, he too is irrelevant.

In all likelihood, the court’s ruling will be overturned. While this is unfortunate, it is also inevitable, for Dr. Newdow has not struck for the heart of the issue; he did not fully understand or apply the principle that guided his lawsuit. Dr. Newdow filed suit because the government used the threat of force to coerce his daughter and other students to speak the Pledge of Allegiance and place themselves beneath the authority of the Judeo-Christian God. He thinks that the government has no right to insist that his daughter engage in religious expression, and he is correct.

However, he deals only with a specific instance of government coercion. He has taken issue with the government’s requirement that his daughter recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Why does Dr. Newdow refrain from questioning the government’s claim that it has the right to coerce his daughter to come to school under threat of force? Why does he refrain from challenging the government’s claim of authority to decide what his daughter shall learn and when? If Dr. Newdow is so concerned about his daughter’s rights, why does he send his daughter to school?

To these questions there is only one plausible answer: Dr. Newdow does not fully understand the principles behind his battle or the larger issue involved: by what right does the government force parents to send their children to schools controlled by the government? Make no mistake, private schools are private only in name; the government can and will shut down a private school if it violates one of any number of arbitrary regulations the government may impose.

The events of the past two weeks raises another question: why is it necessary to state that the United States is “under God” in the first place? By what right is the United States, a sovereign nation, under any entity, least of all a deity whose existence remains unprovable? By right, the United States should claim to be one nation above God, for at her best the United States is a nation where the hands and minds of men can achieve feats formerly considered miraculous.

The Declaration of Independence, while lacking in legal force, remains a statement of the ideals that guided the founding of the United States of America. A nation founded on the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not abase itself before a deity that demands faith and abject obedience.

The true question is this: is the United States one nation with liberty and justice for all, or is it one nation under God? The United States cannot be both; faith is inimical to justice for it depends on the initiation of force against others instead of rational persuasion guided by passionate reason. Is the United States the land of the free, or a land of sinners in the hands of a worthless God?