The Pledge of Allegiance with the 1954 addition of “under God” was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge yesterday.
The decision clears the way for the pledge to be barred in the schools affected by the suit; however, it also puts the case on the fast track back to the Supreme Court.
The Pledge was already ruled unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when it ruled in 2002. This is the same body that the appeal is going to, so it seems likely that they will stand by their precedent and reaffirm their decision.
When the case came before the Supreme Court previously, they dodged the case by saying that it could not proceed because the claimant was not an authorized representative in the suit. This time that’s not the case, so it looks like the Supremes will either have to tackle the case or let the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stand.
What’s the big deal you say? Isn’t this harmless, is it worth all this fuss? Complainant Michael Newdow sums it up as follows:
“All it has to do is put the pledge as it was before, and say that we are one nation, indivisible, instead of dividing us on religious basis,” Newdow told The Associated Press.
“Imagine every morning if the teachers had the children stand up, place their hands over their hearts, and say, ‘We are one nation that denies God exists,’” Newdow said.
“I think that everybody would not be sitting here saying, ‘Oh, what harm is that.’ They’d be furious. And that’s exactly what goes on against atheists. And it shouldn’t.”
To me this case highlights the very reason that politics and religion do not mix. Religion is divisive and does not represent all people. This is the purpose of separation of church and state as it was devised by the founders. Because religion and belief are so polarizing, leaving it completely out of government allows the state to govern based on the needs of society, not on the agenda of a particular faith or representatives of that faith.
As a priest, a Republican, a former senator and former UN ambassador, John Danforth is in a great position to speak on this issue and he says, “The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.”
If he and others in the Republican party are starting to feel a little skittish about being so bound to Christian conservatives and their agenda, imagine how the rest of us feel?
You need no further proof of this that to watch the nightly news. The vast majority of issues dividing this nation are along religious lines. Every story you read about the Ten Commandments, activist judges, prayer in school, homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, the right to die, censorship in TV and movies, sex, art, you name it – those are ALL about religion. And if you go back over that list, see if you can name all the different politicians and government agencies that have some sort of association with those topics. In a place where politics and religion are supposed to be divided, it sure seems like we are up to our eyeballs in unity.
The problem is that this creates division, it creates marginalization and it creates exclusivity and corruption. Perhaps not corruption in monetary terms but in terms of fairness. How do you think a person who is staunchly religious is going to interact with someone who is not? What if your life choices go against the religious choices fed to you by a united church and state? Do you really think people are going to be operating impartially? We already have pharmacists, nurses and doctors who can choose not to treat you if they disagree with you on religious grounds. That’s staggering. And you know who allowed that to happen legally? The federal government.
This is why it’s so critical that we maintain a separation – laws and government must be free to make decisions based on the best thing for the society, not the best thing to promote an agenda based on beliefs. The sooner we realize that this lack of separation is tearing us apart as a country, the sooner we can get back on the road to fixing it.
It is unconstitutional to promote religion, and that’s why the Pledge is unconstitutional. Freedom of religion allows us all to practice or not practice as we see fit. Religion is a private choice and a private relationship. Let’s keep it private where it belongs, I promise you we will all get along much better.
This article originally appeared on The Rudicus Report.