America’s Epitaph? Supremes To Decide
Vol: 30 Issue: 24 Wednesday, March 24, 2004
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments from a California atheist who has launched a one-man crusade to have the phrase “one nation, under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dr. Michael Newdow, a physician who is also a lawyer, sued in a California court, alleging that his daughter was being ‘brainwashed’ by being forced to say the words ‘under God’.
Newdow does not have custody of his daughter. His ex-wife is a born-again Christian — and so is his daughter, who not only does NOT have an objection to pledging allegiance ‘under God’, but who accepts it as the truth.
The fact that the law required Newdow to obtain consent from the girl’s mother, Sandra Banning, in order to file on the girl’s behalf, and failed to get it, was completely ignored by the court.
Despite the obvious fact that Newdow’s entire suit is rooted in his personal domestic problems, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ignored that, gave him a legal standing — despite his non-custodial status — and, in the end, decided in his favor. That was it! (“God is fired, by order of the 9th Circuit Court. All rise!”)
The Supreme Court will hear the case without its most conservative member, Justice Antonin Scalia, who bowed out after Newdow requested he recuse himself, so the deck is somewhat ‘stacked’ against God. (Scalia had criticized the 9th Circuit Court ruling at a religious rally last year.)
Newdow is comparing his case to to the issue of segregation in schools, which the Supreme Court took up 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education.
However, if the Supreme Court decides the case based on Newdow’s argument, “Aren’t we a better nation because we got rid of that stuff?”, he stands a good chance of losing. Most of the Justices are old enough to remember America fifty years ago.
In any case, the Constitutional issue before the Supremes doesn’t seem that complicated; are the words ‘under God’ a case of a state-established religion? The relevant Amendment deals primarily with freedom of speech, but begins with a two-part statement intended to guarantee freedom of religion as well; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” it says.
The phrase, ‘under God’, was not part of the original Pledge of Allegiance as written in 1892. It was inserted by Congress exactly fifty years ago, during the Cold War. At the time, America had just begun its fifty year face-off with the godless Communists of the USSR, and Congress felt inserting the phrase would impart God’s blessing on us.
(We eventually won that war without firing a shot. And a recent AP poll found that almost 9 out of 10 Americans want the Pledge left as it is.)
The Amendment that the Supremes will be re-interpreting was inserted by the Founding Fathers in an historical context. America was founded by Pilgrims seeking freedom from being forced to join the state-sponsored Church of England. They wanted the freedom to worship as they chose.
Hence, the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure no similar state-sponsored religion could take root in the New World — not to remove God, but to ensure His place couldn’t be usurped by a state church.
That is the reason for the second half of the sentence, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Does acknowledging God constitute the ‘establishment’ of a religion? Which religion would THAT be? Is there a religion WITHOUT a ‘god’? This is the crux of the case.
In deciding a 1961 case styled as, “Torcaso v. Watkins”, Justice Black wrote, “Among the religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.”
Existing case law says that there are ‘religions’ without a ‘god’, and there are religions WITH a ‘god’. Islam acknowleges a god. Christianity acknowledges a God. So does Judaism. So does native American cultures who worship a ‘Great Spirit’ whom they also revere as a ‘god’ Which of these ‘religions’ is being elevated over another to the level of state-sponsorship by the inclusion of ‘under God’ in the Pledge?
More than that, if the phrase is struck from the Pledge by the Supremes, it becomes a case of upholding one provision of the Amendment by breaking the other. If the religious rights of Secular Humanist Michael Newdow are ruled superior to the religious rights of 90% of Americans, (according to the polls) then the guarantee of freedom of religion is stolen by judicial fiat and replaced with the Secular Humanist religious worldview, which argues, not for freedom of religion, but for freedom only for religions without a ‘god’.
So much for the legal arguments, which seem pretty cut-and-dried, from the perspective of logic. What is at stake is enormous.
The Declaration of Independence acknowledges a Creator, and it is BECAUSE of that acknowledgment that our Bill of Rights are guaranteed. America is unique in that respect, from all other nations. Since the Founding Documents acknowledge human rights as emanating from the Creator, and NOT from government, only the Creator can take them away. They are forever removed from government control. Newdow’s Secular Humanist religion denies the existence of a Creator God.
If the Supreme Court rules that acknowledging a Creator is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, then those ‘inalienable rights’ are granted by nobody, and therefore are as sacred as the grantor of them.
According to the Declaration, Michael Newdow’s right NOT to believe in God is sacred only because God gave him that right and forbade the state from interfering with it. Ironically, if Newdow wins, he will have destroyed the foundation for his own freedom, along with that of every other American.
In the last days, the Bible says that the antichrist will control a global religious system that has ‘two horns like a lamb, but spake as a dragon’ (Rev 13:11); one Paul describes as ‘having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2nd Timothy 3:5)
It also makes no mention of America in prophecy. The Congress inserted the phrase ‘under God’ to ask His protection during the Cold War. We are now at war with what is arguably a more dangerous enemy, since there is no restraining threat of mutually assured destruction, and at the same time, debating whether or not to continue to seek His protection.
“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12)
When the Supreme Court writes its decision on the Newdow case this summer, it may also be writing America’s epitaph.