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7:30 PM PDT
The courts have long recognized that some phrases that refer to God are not actually endorsements of religious belief. Many scholars cite the example of 'In God We Trust' on U.S. currency, or references to God in many state constitutions.Actually, that works for me too. If the ceremonial phrases at issue really are shorn of all religious context then the constitutional issue is obviated and all is well with the world. But to avoid future misunderstanding, we should be explicit about it.
Here's the deal: we can keep the phrase "under God" in the Pledge, but to ensure consistency with the above argument, let's clearly define the meaning of the word "God" for ceremonial government use. This would require that we excise all religious context, discard the metaphysical implications and remove any association with supremacy, omnipotence, unity or reality. Congress could pass a law that says something like:
Henceforth, when utilized by a person in the employ of government, or by a government office or agency, or when included in a government-mandated recitation or inscription, the word "God" shall be defined as:Voila, a win-win solution! Tradition is maintained, the currency is rescued, the fatwa is lifted from Michael Newdow and the kids won't have to memorize a whole new Pledge, all without offending the Establishment Clause. The Senate should be able to take care of this in three or four hours, max. Problem solved.
12:00 PM PDT
10:30 PM PDT
Republican Senators did not express any fondness for the decision either, but that's not important now.
What's important is that public opinion on this issue is not nearly as monolithic as the politicians' response. Here is a sampling of some early Internet (self-selected) poll numbers:
Any way you slice it, between a fifth and a third of respondents agree with the court decision, and by implication are supportive of a strict separation of church and state. And yet not one member of the House or Senate agrees. With the Republicans having morphed into the Religious Party, and the Democrats content to be the Slightly Less Religious Party, who represents secular-minded Americans politically?
2:30 PM PDT
The roll call vote is in progress right now, but I'll make a bold prediction: there will be no "nay" votes.
1:45 PM PDT
But still! That anyone in a position of authority in this country can discern a simple and obvious truth is just so refreshing, it's almost worth the political cost. Currency, watch out!
In Fantasyland, where bold and principled Democratic politicians get elected, those Democrats would probably calmly make the winning logical case -- that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to our beloved Constitution clearly prohibits the government from selecting, or even recommending a religion for its citizens to believe in. That you can believe what you want to believe, but should not force others to profess to your beliefs or to any beliefs. That the state should not be in the business of indoctrinating children in the proper choice of gods.
But here on earth, with Fox News switched to indignant fulmination mode, and CNN's Talkback Live host Arthel Neville finding the decision incomprehensible, Democratic politicians don't stand a chance. Oh well.
By the way, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin (quoted below as the decision's author) was appointed to the court in 1971 by President Richard Nixon.
11:45 AM PDT
"A profession that we are a nation `under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation `under Jesus,' a nation `under Vishnu,' a nation `under Zeus,' or a nation `under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion," Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote for the three-judge panel.Well, hallelujah! What took so long?
12:45 PM PDT
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