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Thanks for nothing, SCOTUS

By Cheryl K. Chumley
web posted June 21, 2004

The Supreme Court justices may have dropped the ball on this one.

In 1954, at the height of concerns over the spread of communism, Congress voted to insert "under God" into our country's Pledge of Allegiance. In a nation of believers who by and large understand the Judeo-Christian principles involved with the founding of our constitutional system of governance, this hardly seemed inappropriate.

But self-professed atheist Michael Newdow disagreed, and so he did what most with a special interest ax to grind ultimately do – he sought redress in the courts.

In 2002, the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the "under God" phrase of the Pledge was unconstitutional. Public outcry ensued, especially after it was revealed Newdow seemingly and callously used his grade-school daughter, who never complained about the Pledge in the first place and was in fact being raised by a born-again Christian mother with full legal custody rights, to springboard his case into court.

Michael Newdow

The issue proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court for clarification, and on Flag Day the ruling was made public. The result? Michael Newdow does not possess the legal standing, or authority, to bring this case before the court.

This decision is akin to a hard-charging, heart-pounding playoff game ending in tie: In neither case can either side claim an uncontested win. And this is where the justices may have erred. By avoiding the merits of the case and ruling instead on a technicality, they have left the door open for further lawsuits and challenges questioning the constitutional aspects of the phrase "under God."

"The justices ducked this constitutional issue toady, but it is certain to come back in the future," promised Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

This piddling argument with anti-Christian organizations and individuals is becoming a bore.

Aside from the absolute ridiculousness of claiming simple utterance of the phrase "under God" is tantamount to religious indoctrination, as Newdow alleged, the entire argument groups like Lynn's use to advance their perceived notions of legal rights and wrongs is rooted in deception. The term "separation of church and state," the very terminology peddled by most anti-religious fanatics to keep all things Christian from the public domain, does not even exist in the Constitution.

What does exist, however, is the 1st Amendment and its mandate that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…," a clear-cut phrase that clear minds should interpret as an allowance for the people, rather than as a whip for the government to hold. What it means is Congress cannot, say, do as Iraq, which even with its new system of democracy declares itself a nation of Islam, bound by government law to uphold that religion's doctrines.

Offering students the option to recite "under God" along with their Pledge hardly reaches this level of religious establishment.

Had Newdow's daughter been forced by her teacher to say the phrase "under Jehovah," or "under Mohammed" or "under the Goddess of the Trees," perhaps he and his anti-Christian cohorts could have justifiably argued that the taxpayer-funded school system was attempting to establish and promote one form of religion over another.

But that's not the case here, and neither was it found that this particular California public school, or any other for that matter, compels its students by means of physical force or emotional duress to say the Pledge or the "under God" phrase at all. Rather, the choice to participate in this act of patriotism is just that – a choice.

It's too bad the justices for the highest court in the land didn't exercise their choice, too, and issue forth a decisive ruling based on case merits with potential to end the debate over 1st Amendment rights once and for all. Instead, they granted the nation a reprieve – nothing more, nothing less – and displayed, in the process and in the words of Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson, "a lack of principle that is truly appalling."

Cheryl K. Chumley is a regular contributing columnist to several Internet news services, including www.newswithviews, www.thedailycannon and www.pipelinenews.org. She may be reached at ckchumley@aol.com.

Other related articles: (Open in a new window)

  • Parental rights and the pledge by Wendy McElroy (April 19, 2004)
    Michael Newdow
    's battle to prevent his daughter from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is more than just about the battle over church and the state, argues Wendy McElroy. It also raises questions about the role of parental rights
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