For those of you who have been on Mars for the past few days and are just now getting back, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase "under god" in the Pledge Of Allegiance was unconstitutional.
Naturally, the theocratic senators and congressmen are in an uproar, as is the media and a great deal of the citizenry. There is an almost uniform opposition across the board to this decision, with arguments being trotted out from every armchair politician, street lawyer, god-fearing fundamentalist, and elected member of the House and Senate.
And each time I hear the inane, twisted, factually incorrect psuedologic that passes for rational thought these days, I become more angered with the Fundamentalist gold-digging twits we've elected to represent us.
"This decision is just nuts," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D - SD. "Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves," said Sen. Kit Bond, R - MO. "What is next? Will the courts now strip 'So help me God' from the pledge taken by new presidents?"
Trent Lott was heard to remark, "This doesn't make good sense to me."
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to address a few issues. If you pay attention, it's possible you may learn something - and it may not be entirely boring, either. Constitutional law is fun for everyone!
The Declaration Of Independance
As has been pointed out ad nauseum by various politicians and laypeople, the Declaration of Independance mentions a higher power (specifically, a "Creator", as in, "All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..") no less than four times. They then go on to suggest that in order to remove all references to God in the government, we would have to declare the Declaration unconstitutional.
What these people fail to realize is that the Declaration of Independance is not a legal document; that is to say, it is not a law, and therefore cannot be declared unconstitutional. It was written a full eleven years before the Constitution (which was drafted in 1787 and adopted in 1789), and has absolutely no bearing in legal matters or in matters of government.
The Founding Fathers, and this Christian Nation
Dissenters to the court ruling point to the Declaration of Independance and conclude that the 'Founding Fathers' were clearly theists, and moreover, Christian (it is no secret that when 'religion' is being discussed in this country as it relates to the government, it means Christianity).
This is entirely incorrect. Some of the founding fathers were Christian, and some were not. Ben Franklin was as close to being an atheist as one could be in those days without being lynched. A huge number of them were Deists, Thomas Jefferson being among the most vocal.
"I have examined all the known superstitions of the word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology." - Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Short
"The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity." - John Adams
It's curious to me how many people today are attempting to use the founding fathers as support for state-sponsored religion ("This is a nation founded on Christian ideals!"). They seem to be ignoring that it was these very same founding fathers who authored the Establishment clause of our Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
The founding fathers knew what they were doing, and specifically forbade church and state from meddling in each other's affairs.
And what else do we find in the Constitution? An interesting article which states that any treaty ratified and signed by the President does become law. And lo and behold:
"The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." - Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams
Like it or not, there it is: a treaty, which is therefore a law, which gasp!
is even signed by a founding father
It may also interest the Bush administration and the duly appointed Supreme Justices thereof, that having firsthand knowledge of the state-established religions of Europe, only 7% of the people in the 13 colonies belonged to a church when the Declaration of Independence was signed. A major reason for many colonists to leave England and come here was their frustration at being kicked around by the Church-controlled governing body of England; these people knew firsthand what happens when government and religion tangle with each other.
"So help me God."
This is the traditional ending to the Oath of Office taken by the President when he is inaugurated. The key word here is traditional, not legal. The Constitution tells us the legally binding oath, and it is as follows:
"I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and I will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Many, if not all, Presidents have added, "so help me God" to the end of this, as a personal affirmation of their beliefs, but it is not required. You can view the oath here
; that site is Christian-oriented, and even they do not add "so help me God", because it is not
a legally recognized part of the oath.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist in 1892. It did not include the phrase "under God", but merely stated "...one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The phrase "under God" was added by President Eisenhower in 1954, during the height of McCarthyism and anti-Communist hysteria. At the time, Josef Stalin was promoting atheism as a (Soviet) state-sponsored religion; this, coupled with the increasing concern that the rote and mindless recitation of the Pledge resembled Communist indoctrination, gave impetus to the "under God" phrase being added, to distinguish ourselves from the Evil Empire of Soviet Russia.
Eisenhower's final nudge came from a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's service organization, and other religious leaders who sermonized that the pledge needed to be distinguished from similar orations used by "godless communists.'' (As an aside, this is the same time, and for the same reasons, that "In God We Trust" was added to US currency.)
As Eisenhower himself put it,
"From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and every rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."
Read it again. The primary
reason for adding the two small but controversial words to the pledge was to promote religion, and a specific brand of religion (monotheism) at that. This is a clear violation of the Establishment clause that our forefathers had the insight to put down on paper, and our current political leaders need to quit grinding their doctrinal axes and pay attention to the facts.
The Spirit of '76
Some of our Founding Fathers were deeply religious, and some were not. Yet all of them were aware - from firsthand experience - that the only path to true religious freedom is a secular government. The phrase "under God" was added in 1954; modern politicians see no problem with it, and point out how close it was to the 'true spirit' of our forefathers. Now, I ask you - who is more close to the intent of the Founding Fathers? Is it the Congress and President of 1954 and today? Or is it the Founding Fathers themselves, who worked so hard to draft the Constitution to prevent the commingling of religion and governance?