No standing on flag case

A Flag Day non-decision: The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge to the pledge of allegiance by ruling that the complaining father doesn’t have standing to sue. The justices vote 8-0 with Antonin Scalia recusing himself.

The Supreme Court preserved the phrase “one nation, under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance, ruling Monday that a California atheist could not challenge the patriotic oath but sidestepping the broader question of separation of church and state.

. . . The court said atheist Michael Newdow could not sue to ban the pledge from his daughter’s school and others because he did not have legal authority to speak for her.

The girl’s mother, who has custody, has no objection to the pledge.

Jacob Levy and Eugene Volokh are happy the court ducked the constitutional issue.

Somewhere in our fair land, there are custodial, pledge-hating parents who are polishing up a lawsuit.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Talk about spinning, Joanne…

    They are NOT happy because they necessarily believe that “under God” belongs in the pledge… in fact, Jacob thought Newdow should have won…

    Eugene’s reason for being happy:
    I say, “Great! One less case that I have to try to edit down to a manageable size for the textbook supplement that I have due in a few weeks.”

    And Jacob says:
    My own reaction isn’t on the list, though: “Well, at least they didn’t affirm ‘Under God’ on the merits, thereby creating a lousy precedent that we’d be stuck with.” I was never especially otpimistic thst Newdow would win (though I thought he should win), and I’d rather have had him lose like this than to have had him lose on the merits.

  2. Mad Scientist says:

    Doesn’t it strike anyone somewhat ironic that the decision comes down on Flag Day?

  3. Questioneer says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    Why is this statement so difficult for people to understand?

  4. Mad Scientist says:

    It is not the law that you MUST say the pledge.

    Acknowledging the existance of god does not constitute “establishment of religion”.

    Every good athiest knows that.

  5. Of course the interesting question is why Mr. Newdow didn’t have joint legal custody like every other good child suppport payer in California. He must have had an especially rocky relationship with the Sacramento County Family Court.

  6. I’ve got to say it — the parent who challenges may yet be Newdow. Given the changed custody status of the last few months (he now has joint custody), a much more convincing argument for standing could be made. But even if it isn’t, there will be someone, somewhere, who will polisah up his briefs and file away. They might even get him to represent them, since he was a very effective advocate in the courtroom.

    I’ve only scanned the opinions (my paralegal students will be asking about this one tonight), but I think what is interesting is how the opinions in this case broke down. Rehnquist writing a concurrance and O’CONNOR signing on along with Thomas. Does that signal that They, along with Scalia, would support declaring the Pledge Constitutional? And if so, would others (at least Kennedy, but possibly others) join them? And what of Thomas’ separate opinion calling for a complete reconsideration of jurisprudence on the Establishment Clause?

  7. Miller Smith says:

    If a child is harmed (by whatever means) and the custodial parent chooses not to pursue legal action to make the child whole, the SCOTUS has now said the non-custodial parent cannot aid their child or protect their child.

    This is horrible. The non-custodial parent has no say in their child’s life. They just pay. Shut up and pay. See your child being damaged legally? Too bad.

  8. Questioneer,
    Quite simply, we’ve had to spend a great deal of brain-power to become as confused as we have on that particular part of the 1st Amendment.

    M. Smith,
    I think you have thoroughly misunderstood the law on this one. The point here is that the non-custodial parent doesn’t have the standing to contradict the custodial parent on issues of religious upbringing. The court acknowledges that Mr. Newdow has the right to attempt to indoctrinate his daughter has he sees fit, and a fair examination of public school curricula can hardly make one believe that, overall it is much more friendly to a particular religion than it is to the anti-religion-religion of atheism. What Mr. Newdow DOES NOT HAVE is veto power over the custodial parent.

    Now, to the ridiculous extrapolation that children will be doomed to torture (If a child is harmed (by whatever means) and the custodial parent chooses not to pursue legal action to make the child whole, the SCOTUS has now said the non-custodial parent cannot aid their child or protect their child.) if non-custodial parents can’t sue on their behalf… That’s a crock. The state reserves the right to step in and represent the interests of the child if the custodial parent refuses to do so, and will often seek criminal sanctions against the negligent parent.

    Just remember, this wasn’t a “technicality.” It was a very good ruling that firmly respects the Constitution. If a party does not have proper standing, then the Federal courts simply do not have authority to adjudicate the matter. We are all a little safer when the federal government is restrained in its reach.

    Finally, if you are familiar with Supreme Court jurisprudence, you will recognize that the Court, especially in the last 30 years, or so, has been increasingly hesitant to decide “big” issues if there are smaller ones that can be dispositive. I’ve got mixed feelings about this, but at least it tends to keep the court from swinging too radically in any direction, and all-in-all, that’s usually a positive thing.

  9. mike from Oregon says:

    I’ve always failed to see how the mere mention of the word “God” establishes a religion. No matter if the word is in the pledge or on our money; no where does it say that you HAVE to believe in ANY God, nor does it say that there would/will be some type of punishment or imprisonment if you don’t worship God.

    How can the mere mention of a word imply the ESTABLISHMENT of something?

    It’s like the recent turn of events where the city of LA is going to remove the tiny cross from it’s city seal. It’s so small, I never knew it was there. What is large and could be considered (at least by me) as a endorsement is that large lady figure in the middle of the seal. I believe she is the goddess pomona (spelling could be off) who was the greek goddess of fruits or crops or something. However, despite her prominance, and obvious connection with an ancient religion, she is being allowed to stay, but they have to get rid of that nasty cross.

  10. John from OK says:

    How much do we pay these justices that they can’t even come up with a lousy yes/no decision on the Pledge? They procrastinate worse than I do.

  11. “Somewhere in our fair land, there are custodial, pledge-hating parents who are polishing up a lawsuit.”

    I’m almost certain of this.

  12. I don’t think either side is “happy” with this ruling. That’s why it’s such a *good* ruling.

  13. Mad Scientist says:

    Sooner or later it will be decided. My money is on the position that it is not an establishment, similar to “In God We Trust” on our coinage and currency.

    As an athiest, I am OK with that. Because it acknowledges the founding principles (except slavery, but that is a long story).

  14. John froom OK,

    (1) How much do we pay the Justices? – Not nearly enough. I believe the pay is somewhere between $230K and $260K. That might sound like a lot, but that’s probably not even 10% of what they could make in private practice.

    District (trial level) Federal judges make right at $150K, and just so that you know, a 2nd year associate at a big law firm in one of the big cities in this country can and will make more than that. The Constitution says that Federal Judges pay should never be decreased so the Congress tied their pay (by statute) to Judges so they wouldn’t be forced to take a pay cut. Unfortunately that has meant that Federal Judges haven’t been able to get significant raises in a loooooonnnnng time.

    (2) Making decisions – Trust me, you should be happy. The smaller the decision the judges make the better. You must realize that Federal Judges are the least “democratic” of the brances, and that means if they start making BIG decisions based on what they think is right, they’ll start running rough-shod over the perogatives of the other two branches which must answer to the people.

    I agree, it’s frustrating, but restraint is a virtue, and impatience isn’t a good excuse for rash decisions.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Bronson,
    If a child is ordered to pray to Satan in the public school and the mother does not choose to protect her child’s civil rights, the father is now forever barred from doing so himself. That IS the ruling today. On such matters, Daddy is O U T!

    This is outragous. This is disgusting.

    Sorry Bronson, but everthing you just outlined is exactly my point.

    Now how about this? I, as a Biology Teacher and membe of the public schools, while leading my students through the Pledge, substitute Satan for God, wht are MY rights?

  16. Miller Smith says:

    A father has no standing just because he doesn’t have physical custody…nice…real nice….

  17. Anonymous says:

    mike from Oregon,
    Ther is no god. To say that there is or to have it in a offical government pledge that CHILDREN are being lead to say by an AGENT OF THE GOVERNMENT is is is establishing a religion–a religion that belives in a god.

    There is no god.

  18. Mark Odell says:

    The simple solution to this alleged problem is for the student to Just Say No, then the entire fedgov apparatus surrounding the pledge is mooted. There is that 1954 law which mandates that the pledge must contain the words “under God” (the expression “trying to polish a turd” leaps to mind); but AFAIK there is no law which mandates that the student must recite the pledge. (If anybody knows different, clue me in.)

    The student could also substitute their own, pledging allegiance to something other than the state:
    The Freedom Pledge
    The Pledge of a Grievance
    Letter from Stuart Sanders
    A Pledge the courts won’t be able to knock down
    Pledging Allegiance to Freedom, Not Statism

    One could do a lot worse than the first two clauses of the Soldier’s Oath.

    [*sigh*] The whole matter is authoritarianstatist and ultra vires anyway (read the Constitution for yourself and see).

  19. blamanj says:

    Somewhere in our fair land, there are custodial, pledge-hating parents who are polishing up a lawsuit.

    Gee, I thought it was pledge-loving parents who thought the original version was just fine until it was warped by Christian chauvanism during the McCarthyite era who were bringing the lawsuits.

  20. One of a number of anonymous commenters wrote:

    “If a child is ordered to pray to Satan in the public school and the mother does not choose to protect her child’s civil rights, the father is now forever barred from doing so himself.”

    No, he simply doesn’t have access to the federal courts: he can still seek a remedy in the state courts which, as courts of general jurisdiction, generally care much less about standing. Such a remedy need not be limited to state law, either, since the state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over federal questions except when Congress specifically excludes them.

    Moreover, “forever” is presuming there will never be a change in custody, and that seems doubtful in light of the other parent failing to protect the child from an obvious abuse.

  21. Miller Smith says:

    Dave J,
    The father STARTED in the state courts and was rebuffed. He then ended up in the Federal District Court which rule in his favor. The SCOTUS now says that he had no standing…period.

    That is the meaning of FOREVER.

    A father has no standing to protect the civil rights of his children if he does not have physical custody…just SHUT UP AND PAY.

    This is justice?

    And to ALL OF YOU! Why do you WANT the word GOD in the pledge in the first place? Just what is the point in the first place?

  22. Mark Odell says:

    Miller Smith wrote: And to ALL OF YOU! Why do you WANT the word GOD in the pledge in the first place?

    Do I?

  23. Nameless, et al,

    If “Daddy” had bothered to keep his wang in his pants until he had married the girl he was courting, he would have qualified for joint custody or opartial custody unless he had otherwise proven himself to be a bad parent. Mr. Newdow did not make that choice. He chose to father a child outside of wedlock and, from what I’ve read didn’t want to have much to do with the kid until he learned she was being raised as a Christian.

    For all the moral outrage on behalf of fathers, please understand that I am a staunch proponent of fathers’ rights, but I’m not much of a fan of men who don’t take their responsibilities seriously from the start. Incidentally, the law is somewhat less friendly to those sorts of dads too. (It’s not all that friendly to Dads in the first place, but that’s another issue.)

    You asked about “your rights” if, as a public school teacher, you change the pledge from “under God” to “under Satan.” That would be a fairly intentional action intended to impress a fairly narrow set of ideas on the children. The reference to “under God” is so generic as to not be identifiable with a particular religion, and historical since the founders all (or nearly all) believed in some Diety that had ordained the founding of the nation.

    M. Smith, the fact of the matter is that this ruling is not as final as you might think. If Mr. Newdow changes his position with respect to the kid (gains partial or joint custody, and not just visitation rights), he will then have standing and be able to start the circus all over again. For what it’s worth, the previous (9th Circuit) ruling would be strongly persuasive in any subsequent case since its logic was not addressed by the Supreme Court. D. J. was entirely correct, and I would humbly suggest that you pick up a hornbook on Federal Civil Procedure (or even just a copy of the rules) before you spout your certainties about the judicial system. You simply do not know what you are speaking of. Finally, the representative branches are able to make whatever changes they deem necessary within the Constitution, and therefore Mr. Newdow can appeal to an appropriate legislature for whatever releif he seeks.

    Also, physical custody is not the main issue. The question is entirely legal. Does Mr. Newdow have the LEGAL right to make these sorts of determinations for the kid. At the time of the suit, the answer was a resounding NO. He did not have veto power over the mother who had SOLE legal custody at that time.

    For what it’s worth, making the assertion that there is no God is just as religious as the assertion that there is a (or several) God(s). That question, no matter how you come down on it, is necessarily religious. Having the government come down firmly on the side of “no God” is much more of an establishment problem than simply saying “under God.” “Establishing” a religion is much different from acknowledging that the country was founded by people who firmly believed and dedicated their efforts to a God.

    By the way, Mark is correct. The state cannot make a student say the pledge with or without the phrase “under God.” It constitutes a political statement with which the government cannot demand concurrence. (That’s the “speech” part of the 1st Amendment.)

    I’m glad that none of you are federal judges because few of you seem to be willing to sit down and carefully consider the law and facts of THIS case. The very definition of an activist judge is one that seeks to make some sort of societal change from the bench rather than applying the law that is relevant to the particular facts in order to come to a decision that reflects the societal perception of justice as much as possible.

    Take a deep breath, and count to ten.

  24. Uh, before you get too hot on this topic, note that the Islamic Republic of Iran has more or less told the world this week that it intends to build nuclear weapons.

    Now, that’s something to talk about. Don’t you know there are serious people out there whose idea of a good day is to kill people just like you?

    Did you see the ACLU is suing to rename Mount Zion National Forest? Do you think THEY are going to protect you? These actions and arguments are signs of a pathetic, lost people.

    For those who would like to know what happens when you have “freedom” and no God, just read about the French Revolution. 40,000 beheaded (Ah, French rationalism, the guillotine) in one year alone. All in the name of the Rights of Man. The French revolutionaries were adamant atheists. Just like the Russians and Chinese Communists.

    You better hope your conqueror believes in God, because he MIGHT find a religious reason to spare your inconvenient life.

  25. Mark–
    In 1944, during the height of WWII, the Supreme Court ruled that no child can be forced to say the Pledge. Justice Jackson said “If there is one bright star in our constitutional firmament, it is that no government official high or petty can decree what shall be orthodox in matters of religion or politics.” A kid has an absolute right to stand (or even sit) mute — but may not cause a disturbance by trying to recite some other pledge or invoking civil disobedience.

    As for starting the day with the pledge, it is a matter of state law down here that we do both the Pledge of Allegience and the Texas Pledge (“Honor the Texas flag. I pledge allegience to thee, Texas one and indivisible.”).

  26. stolypin says:

    “You better hope your conqueror believes in God, because he MIGHT find a religious reason to spare your inconvenient life.”

    I note the use of the contingent MIGHT, which I think appropriate under the circumstances.

    Apparently the miserable captors of Daniel Perl, David Berg and others did not find a religious reason to spare their “inconvenient” lives despite their professed deep belief (no matter how twisted) in their God.

    Perhaps the quality of mercy depends on the quality of one’s vision of God. Perhaps those that kill in the name of God simply use God as an excuse or pretext to engage in conduct similar to that engaged in by Stalin, Mao, or Robsepierre all of whom found plenty of reason to kill thousansds upon thousands. I suspect the absence of mercy on their parts was not solely the product of their atheism nor was atheism their primary motivating factor. Obtaining and maintaing power seems more relevant to their outrages. Perhaps not.

    On the other hand,I do wonder if God in his heaven maintains a scorecard to see if during the course of human history the number of people killed in His name by conquerors, rivals, nations, etc. of all faiths exceeds the number of people killed for any other reason. Just a thought.

    And in case anyone thinks it relevant – no I am not an atheist. Far from it in fact.

    Ivan

  27. Miller Smith says:

    “The reference to “under God” is so generic as to not be identifiable with a particular religion”
    Bronson,

    Genertic to religion! And if “god” is so meaningless, what is the point of it being in the pledge?

    Oh, BTW, “under god” and “In god We Trust” were added to the pledge and money respectively in the 1950’s. This very fact gives lie to the concept that “under god” and “In god We Trust” were part of the beginning of this country.

    How about keeping “god” out of it altogether? Why this strange overwhelming need to shove it in our face?

    If I were a federal judge, I would not allow the government to push any political message on the free people at all. That is a violation of the first amendment and IS the LAW. You want your “god?” Then you are free on your own time and with you own private property to indulge yourself in a goofy myth all you want–keep me out of it! If you don’t, then you will face the possibility of seeing “Allah Akbar” on your money one day.

  28. Miller Smith says:

    Texas Teacher,
    Did you notice that the SCOTUS says you can’t force a child to say the pledge but your state law is in violation of that ruling?

    Why use the imprimatur of the state on an oath only to also say that you don’t have to say it? Why do something like that to CHILDREN!? Why put a CHILD in the position of sticking up for their legal rights in the face of, and so often in spite of, the teacher who controls their future? Why would so many “Christians” and “god fearing” people want to foist such evil on a CHILD?

    I know why. They see their own religion as so weak that they need the coercive power of the government to give it meaning. They don’t believe in the power of their religion, so they run to the government to push it in everyone’s face. Pardon me “god”, but your slip (insecurity) is showing.

  29. M. Smith –

    First of all, as a teacher in a classroom (in Texas), you cannot see the mouths of all of your students moving and saying the pledge at once. In a group of 25 kids, more than half could say nothing, and unless you were looking right at them, you would never know who did and who didn’t.

    I really don’t think my 2nd grader is going to concern himself with what his teacher thinks if he doesn’t say the pledge (and my kid WOULD say the pledge, BTW). If a parent objects, they can send a note at the beginning of school saying that their child would not be saying the pledge (they would have to stand up out of respect for the flag). Then their butts would be covered and everyone would be happy.

    The Texas law says that the schools will participate in the US pledge and the Texas pledge daily – it doesn’t say that all students must participate. We used to say the pledge only one a week in the high schools. Now we say it daily, and I would venture a guess that in my classroom, about 1/3 of the kids participate. It’s their choice – they don’t have to say it if they don’t wat to, but it allows those kids who actually care about the principals that this country was founded upon to express their loyalty to this great land of ours.

    Last of all, I don’t see my love of God as a weak religion. I just like to give credit where credit is due. If a friend prepared a great meal for me, would I not want to thank him or her, or would that be showing my belief in the fact that they don’t always cook well and that I might be offending them or calling them “weak”? Oh, I believe in the power of my religion and my faith in Jesus Christ, and I’m not trying to shove it down anybody’s throat – I’m just not willing to allow people like you to change history and say that this country was not founded on Biblical principles. Too many history books have already done that, and I’m tired of Christians be touted as the bad guys and the ones who want to change things. We just want to change them BACK.

  30. M. Smith,
    First: If you WERE a federal judge, you would find yourself hauled in front of the Senate in what’s known as an “impeachment” proceeding. Your dedication to your idiology rather than to the law would be proof of your unfitness for the bench, and you would be removed.

    The fact that the phrases were added in the 1950s does not all of the sudden make our founding fathers godless heathens. The phrases were added in large part as a tribute to the FACT that the founders had a great deal of religious faith.

    What’s with your strange need to prevent any display that acknowledges the overwhelming faith of the founders without requiring anyone to believe it? That, Mr. Smith, is religious zeal stronger than anything I or just about anyone else here has displayed.

    You’re bizzare inpterpretation of the “LAW” would prevent any public proclamation on any societal issue. The Pledge does not establish a religion, and, since nobody is required to recite it, does not infringe on anyone’s exercise of their religious beliefs.

    Get a grip.

    I humbly suggest that you read up on 1st Amendment jurisprudence before you tell us what the LAW IS.

  31. Mr. Smith — your rant (and your obvious bigotry against religious believers that clearly underlies it) almost led me to ignore you. But to do so would be to walk away from an opportunity to put some information out for folks who are interested in honest discussion instead of polemical firestorms.

    First, while the Texas law does require the day begin with the pledge it also contains specific language conforming to theholding in the SCOTUS case cited above. Even if it did not, that case would be controlling ad would render any prosecution or punishment prescribed unenforcible. The dicta that I quoted is merely one of the more commonly cited lines from the case.

    As for your “why not keep God (a proper name — capitalize it) our of it” argument, I’m curious why you feel the need to compel the silence of the majority so that your minority can feel comfortable and respected. Are you harmed by hearing people speak about God, even in the most generic way? Does “God bless you” in response to a sneeze cause you to break out in hives? “Under God” in the pledge is no more than a governmental acknowledgement of the historical reality of the motives behind our nation’s founding and the fact that Americans are an overwhelmingly religious people (quite diverely so) — both of which are rather distinct elements of the American character. Overall, it would appear that YOUR insecurity is showing, for it is only by suppressing any acknowledgement these things that you think your views can be sustained and respected. For lack of a better phrase, you appear to be a Taliban Atheist out to do to the pledge what those folks did to the Buddhas in Afghanistan.

    For what it is worth, I din’t like the current Pledge. I would substitute one of Mark’s suggestions — or even better, begin the day with these words from the Declaration of independence:
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”
    But no doubt we would hear you complaining about the reference to a creator.

  32. Miller Smith says:

    Jill,
    “The Texas law says that the schools will participate in the US pledge and the Texas pledge daily – it doesn’t say that all students must participate. “
    If no students participated, did the school participate? Does this make any sense?
    “…they don’t have to say it if they don’t wat to, but it allows those kids who actually care about the principals that this country was founded upon to express their loyalty to this great land of ours.”
    Oh, and those who actually decide to use those principles to not say a GOVERNMENT LOYALTY OATH don’t care about “principals that this country was founded upon[?]” Orwell would be proud.
    “Last of all, I don’t see my love of God as a weak religion. I just like to give credit where credit is due. If a friend prepared a great meal for me, would I not want to thank him or her, or would that be showing my belief in the fact that they don’t always cook well and that I might be offending them or calling them “weak”? Oh, I believe in the power of my religion and my faith in Jesus Christ, and I’m not trying to shove it down anybody’s throat – I’m just not willing to allow people like you to change history and say that this country was not founded on Biblical principles. Too many history books have already done that, and I’m tired of Christians be touted as the bad guys and the ones who want to change things. We just want to change them BACK.”
    Why change them back? If you religion is strong enough for you, why make all the rest of us deal with it in the public sphere? Why are so many religious people so into coercion?

  33. Miller Smith says:

    Bronson,

    ”First: If you WERE a federal judge, you would find yourself hauled in front of the Senate in what’s known as an “impeachment” proceeding. Your dedication to your idiology rather than to the law would be proof of your unfitness for the bench, and you would be removed.”
    The above was in response to this comment from me: “If I were a federal judge, I would not allow the government to push any political message on the free people at all.” So Bronson, you think that a judge SHOULD help the government of a free people push political messages on that free people and a judge that would protect the free speech rights should be run out of office? Are you serious? Are you for real?

    “The fact that the phrases were added in the 1950s does not all of the sudden make our founding fathers godless heathens. The phrases were added in large part as a tribute to the FACT that the founders had a great deal of religious faith.”
    Why didn’t the founding fathers institute a GOVERNMENT LOYALTY OATH and GOD BANNERS on money from the beginning? “I know teacher! Call on me!” It was because the founders had a true and deep understanding of why a government of a free people should NEVER do things like that—that’s why. It is YOU who have strayed from the true path of the founders. Oh yes, they were religious men. They were just true to the principles of religious freedom.
    “What’s with your strange need to prevent any display that acknowledges the overwhelming faith of the founders without requiring anyone to believe it? That, Mr. Smith, is religious zeal stronger than anything I or just about anyone else here has displayed.”
    YOU PAY FOR IT OUT OF YOUR PRIVATELY EARNED MONEY!! Don’t make me support your fake and ridiculous god silliness. If anyone in the government tried to shut down your private expression for your religion I would be there to help kick their butt. I want to make sure you OR I are not preferred by the GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE! Such things are not the in the proper purview of the GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE!
    “You’re bizzare inpterpretation of the “LAW” would prevent any public proclamation on any societal issue. The Pledge does not establish a religion, and, since nobody is required to recite it, does not infringe on anyone’s exercise of their religious beliefs.”
    Uh…yeah…duh! The GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE has no business having a social policy. Period. Other than punishing and protecting against the initiation of acts of coercion and the punishment of fraud, what business does the GOVERNMENT OF A FREE PEOPLE have in social issues? How about NONE!?
    “Get a grip.”
    “I humbly suggest that you read up on 1st Amendment jurisprudence before you tell us what the LAW IS.”
    Oh…so you support abortion choice? Hmmm? Well?
    Didn’t think so.

  34. Mr. Smith,

    Pick up a history book, and not a piece of ani-religious propaganda. The founding fathers were staunch supporters of displays of religion. The first session of the U.S. Congress was a 3-hour long prayer meeting.

    They didn’t want the federal government specifying an orthodoxy (“respecting an establishment of religion”) and they didn’t want the government to prohibit people from picking their own religion (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). “Under God” does NOT specify any orthodoxy.

    The Pledge (GOVERNMENT LOYALTY OATH, as you seem to enjoy describing it) is a voluntary expression of patriotism. Note, please, that it is voluntary. Why didn’t the Founders institute it? Perhaps they ran out of time. I don’t think there’s anything objectionable within the pledge, from their perspective. Perhaps they just didn’t get around to it, you know, being busy starting up a nation and all.

    You’re rant was fairly nonsensical, but you challenged me directly on a couple of points, so I’ll address them. You said:
    “So Bronson, you think that a judge SHOULD help the government of a free people push political messages on that free people and a judge that would protect the free speech rights should be run out of office? Are you serious? Are you for real?”
    I’ll tell you what I think… I think that, for the most part, these questions are for the legislative and executive branches of government… you know, the representative branches that institute the will of the FREE PEOPLE. The Judiciary should not readily choose to overrule the other branches of government, and there are specific rules of construction (statutory interpretation) that are to be employed so that, if possible, a statute will be upheld. If no reasonable interpretation could allow that the law might fall within the restrictions of the Constitution, then it must be overturned. Likewise, if it is shown by experience, that the law is enforced in a manner that restricts the Constitutional rights of the people, then it is unconstitutional. Any judge that leaps at the opportunity to overturn the representative branches of government to impose his or her own vision of the Constitution or justice, or whathaveyou, is unfit. You demonstrate that you are unwilling to examine the issue according to the rules that the Supreme Court has established and that indicates that you are unfit to be a judge. Making one or two mistakes won’t be the end of a judge, but a consistent refusal to act according to his position as judge instead of “super-legislature” will, most definitely, be grounds for an impeachment.

    Finally, my position on Abortion. I fully recognize that the LAW as it currently stands allows abortion, more or less, on demand. I also recognize (since I’ve read the cases), that the Supreme Court has not squarely addressed the central issue of 14th Amendment protection for the unborn child, so that if I, as a federal judge were to make a factual determination that the unborn child was a live human, then that finding could only be reviewed according to the “clearly erroneous” standard of review (see the 7th Amendment, but I’m not going to go all the way through the development of appellate jurisprudence). You see, I know what the LAW is, and I know what it is not. Moreover, I know (or would in a given case) where the law has previously spoken and therefore where I must follow by stare decisis prior decisions, and where I could interpret the law.

    As it turns out, the decisions that allow abortion are remarkably shallow, which is why they are so hard-fought in the lowerer courts. The pro-abortion side knows that a more thorough review of the relevant legal history and science would likely result in the prohibition of abortion in nearly all cases.

    BTW, your screed against government involvment in “social issues” demonstrates a profound misunderstanding about what law is. ALL law (tax policy, criminal code, zoning laws, common law, etc.) is an expression of what is called “public policy.” Everything the government does is related to social issues. I’m not saying that the government should be involved in ALL social issues, but everything it does do is related to some social issue. That’s a fact… Deal with it.

  35. M.Smith –

    Religious people are not all into coercion – we are into the FACTS. Should we not teach the Holocaust because it might offend someone? Should we not teach slavery because it might offend someone? NO! These are FACTS and need to be taught as facts.

    Slowly over the years the textbook committees have been swayed by the left wing liberals to slowly eat away at the facts they don’t like, especially those behind the founding of this country. They have little by little left things out and added their own commentaries on what they “think” happened, not what actually happened. This trend has so penetrated the mainstream that there are actually kids and young adults out there who believe the Holocaust never happened and that we never landed on the moon! There are movements underway that say we should not teach any history before 1900, because the Civil War and slavery are “such an ugly part of our past”! This is assinine!

    This country was founded by godly men looking for religious freedom from the Church of England. The writings of these men prove this fact, even though the textbook publishers tend to turn a blind eye. Ignoring the fact won’t make it go away, and I refuse to have history changed just because it offends someone. Guess what – the truth hurts sometimes, and sometimes we need to deal with a little hurt to learn some things.

    Why change them back, you say? Because it is WRONG that they were changed in the first place!

  36. Miller Smith says:

    Pick up a history book, and not a piece of ani-religious [sic] propaganda. The founding fathers were staunch supporters of displays of religion. The first session of the U.S. Congress was a 3-hour long prayer meeting.
    They didn’t want the federal government specifying an orthodoxy (“respecting an establishment of religion”) and they didn’t want the government to prohibit people from picking their own religion (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). “Under God” does NOT specify any orthodoxy.
    =======================================
    Uh…the very concept of a ‘god’ is orthodoxy.
    =======================================
    The Pledge (GOVERNMENT LOYALTY OATH, as you seem to enjoy describing it) is a voluntary expression of patriotism. Note, please, that it is voluntary. Why didn’t the Founders institute it? Perhaps they ran out of time. I don’t think there’s anything objectionable within the pledge, from their perspective. Perhaps they just didn’t get around to it, you know, being busy starting up a nation and all.
    ============================
    The Pledge of Allegiance was an advertising gimmick. It was written by an owner of a flag company as an advertising ploy and included with flags sold. It caught on and became what it is today. The founders didn’t have it to institute. “Under god” was not in the original. Why you religious types have to go and put your stuff in everyone’s faces is beyond me. Check the beam in your own eye first.
    =============================
    You’re rant was fairly nonsensical, but you challenged me directly on a couple of points, so I’ll address them. You said:
    “So Bronson, you think that a judge SHOULD help the government of a free people push political messages on that free people and a judge that would protect the free speech rights should be run out of office? Are you serious? Are you for real?”
    I’ll tell you what I think… I think that, for the most part, these questions are for the legislative and executive branches of government… you know the representative branches that institute the will of the FREE PEOPLE. The Judiciary should not readily choose to overrule the other branches of government, and there are specific rules of construction (statutory interpretation) that are to be employed so that, if possible, a statute will be upheld. If no reasonable interpretation could allow that the law might fall within the restrictions of the Constitution, then it must be overturned. Likewise, if it is shown by experience, that the law is enforced in a manner that restricts the Constitutional rights of the people, and then it is unconstitutional. Any judge that leaps at the opportunity to overturn the representative branches of government to impose his or her own vision of the Constitution or justice, or whathaveyou, is unfit. You demonstrate that you are unwilling to examine the issue according to the rules that the Supreme Court has established and that indicates that you are unfit to be a judge. Making one or two mistakes won’t be the end of a judge, but a consistent refusal to act according to his position as judge instead of “super-legislature” will, most definitely, be grounds for an impeachment.
    =================
    No such thing as precedent?
    ===================
    Finally, my position on Abortion. I fully recognize that the LAW as it currently stands allows abortion, more or less, on demand. I also recognize (since I’ve read the cases), that the Supreme Court has not squarely addressed the central issue of 14th Amendment protection for the unborn child, so that if I, as a federal judge were to make a factual determination that the unborn child was a live human, then that finding could only be reviewed according to the “clearly erroneous” standard of review (see the 7th Amendment, but I’m not going to go all the way through the development of appellate jurisprudence). You see, I know what the LAW is, and I know what it is not. Moreover, I know (or would in a given case) where the law has previously spoken and therefore where I must follow by stare decisis prior decisions, and where I could interpret the law.
    As it turns out, the decisions that allow abortion are remarkably shallow, which is why they are so hard-fought in the lowerer courts. The pro-abortion side knows that a more thorough review of the relevant legal history and science would likely result in the prohibition of abortion in nearly all cases.
    ==========================
    If what you have outlined above is so true, then why would any abortion case make it through the courthouse door? Shouldn’t all the judges that don’t throw out abortion rights cases be impeached? Yes?

    Your arguments are for mere convienience of the moment. When a new situation presents itself you already know what outcome you desire and you fashion an argument to fit it rather than going to first principles.
    ==============================
    BTW, your screed against government involvment in “social issues” demonstrates a profound misunderstanding about what law is. ALL law (tax policy, criminal code, zoning laws, common law, etc.) is an expression of what is called “public policy.” Everything the government does is related to social issues. I’m not saying that the government should be involved in ALL social issues, but everything it does do is related to some social issue. That’s a fact… Deal with it.
    ============================
    Gay marriage? School uniforms? Writing the tax code to give inducements for behavior changes? Criminal codes that make non-coercive private behavior something you can be locked up for?
    Wonder why the founders didn’t have an income tax? The ONLY thing the government of a free people should do is prevent and punish the initiation of coercion and fraud. The fact you want it to do more it a tacit admission that you wish to coerce the people of the United States into the narrow confines of your brand of religious insanity.
    If you wish to be insane and belive in spooks in the sky, be my guest. I will stand tall in battle against all who would harm you in any way for your beliefs. They will be my enemy as they would be against freedom. You would direct the police powers of the government against me through codification of you religious crazyness into the law. You are against freedom.
    You are my enemy.

  37. stolypin says:

    Jill states:

    This trend has so penetrated the mainstream that there are actually kids and young adults out there who believe the Holocaust never happened and that we never landed on the moon!

    Jill, for all the many faults found in contemporary textbooks I don’t believe I have ever come accross one that denies the Holocaust or the moon landings. I assume you were just noting this as an example. I would guess that if any child acquires these thoughts they are not getting it from the public school system.

    M Smith asks:
    Why are so many religious people so into coercion?

    After reading all the posts here I think it fair to say that you exhibit as much coercive zeal as anyone else, if not more. Perhaps you feel the need to meet coercion with coercion. I do have a modest suggestion though. I admire your courage, for want of a better term, in utilizing what appears to be your office e-mail address. You must no doubt be aware that some readers of this blog, perhaps residents of your county, might realize that you are employed by a county’s educational system. Although I am sure that there is absolutely no correlation between your county’s academic standing in the state (dead last according to an article in today’s Washington Post)and the amount of time school teachers or adminstrators spend on blogs you do run the risk that some one might make the spurious assertion that spending an excess of the school day on the taxpayer’s dime debating the existence of God and using county provided web-portals to pledge to be the enemy of all those that do not share your views might be a contributory factor in that low ranking. I fear some folks might also make the unwarranted and specious assumption that the tone and tenor of your comments, if it is at all similar to one’s classroom manner when faced with disagreement from the student body might also not be inducive to a healthy classroom atmosphere. I have no doubt this is not the case. Simillarly, I have no doubt that you do not spend much time discussing these matters with your students and if you do I am sure you respect the opinions of those young boys and girls that disagree with you.

    And for what it is worth – I do not support prayer in schools. I am not offended by the Pledge of Allegiance even if I think the addition of the word God in the 1950s was a puerile political ploy originating at the height of the Cold War battle against Godless atheists like Stalin. And for those that disagree with me – don’t worry – I promise not to make you my enemy.

  38. No, stolypin, he won’t get in any trouble.

    The Peoples Republic of St. George’s County is simply a slightly more affluent suburb of Washington DC, populated by liberals of his ilk.

    If his rants were brought to school board attention, he would likely be made superintendant.

  39. People, the establishment clause of the first amendment was put in so that no one would be arrested and tried for heresy, which was still going on in Europe at the time. Ask yourself when is the last time that someone was arrested for heresy? Maybe you could make a case for the Scopes Monkey trials, but that was not actually about heresy. IMO freedom of religion DOES NOT mean from religion. If you say that then what is to say that freedom of speech also means freedom from speech. So if you’re in a public place and I don’t like what you’re saying well then I’ll have you arrested or forced to stop talking. Think it can’t happen, well college campuses are already telling adults where they can speak and what is acceptable to say. Basically, just like speech that some people don’t like, religious symbols, that the atheist doesn’t want to see, are not something that the minority should be able to force the majority to do without, even in public places. So, if you’re an atheist try developing a thicker skin and, just ignore the symbols.

  40. M. Smith wrote: “You are against freedom.”
    — No.

    M. S.: “You are my enemy.”
    — Maybe.

    M. S.: “The ONLY thing the government of a free people should do is prevent and punish the initiation of coercion and fraud”
    — Roads? Postal service? There’s lots of stuff that the government is explicitly and implicitly authorized to do via the Constitution. I’m not in the least saying that it *should* be everywhere that it is, but that’s beside the point. You’re obviously suffering from some serious psychological issues if you’re willing to make the assertion that a disagreement with you over theological issues makes me insane.
    You live an a atheistic libertarian utopian fantasy, and you presume an awful lot about me.

    You’re actually amusing. Yes, everything the government does is via coercion, implicit or explicit. Progressive tax rates discourage economic growth, and hence Reagan’s (and many people like him, including yours truly) desire to cut and flatten the income tax rates (since we’re just not going to get rid of it anytime soon). High tax rates on specific items are intended to decrease their use (tobacco, booze, etc.). Yes, the government (states) can pretty much outlaw anything not protected by the federal government. I’m not a big fan of everywhere it’s applied, but that’s how things are. Don’t get pissed at me because I happen to be able to discern reality and it’s not in conformance to your fantasy. For the most part, if the government can put forward a rational basis for why some activity should be outlawed, and that basis has some relationship to a legitimate government purpose, then the law will be upheld. I presume you’re speaking of the Lawrence v. Texas case. Guess what, (1) the law was struck down, so you should be happy, (2) the activity now protected by the constitution is nowhere to be found within the constitution, (3) Noting how homosexuals, as a generalized group, act and determining that behavior to be incompatible with the best interests of the health and well being of the people in the state would normally, that is before Justice Kennedy found a new constitutional right to sodomy, be an adequate basis for the law, and (4) The state did not prosecute the case, it was Lawrence who took the action forward.

    Just so that you know, deciding cases along the lines previously used is not grounds for impeachment. Like I said, I would be willing to speak to the law that has not been addressed. It is not impeachable to keep your decisions within the law that has already been decided, if the decision can be made there. Once again, you’re displaying a remarkable ignorance of how the judicial system works. I guess that’s fine. Now that I know you work in a public school, I fully understand *why* you’re so ignorant of basic facts.

    Finally, you wrote, “No such thing as precedent?”
    — I don’t know what you’re speaking of here. The canons of construction to which I referred ARE based on precedent. The deference to the representative branches by the judiciary is found throughout American legal history. I really don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Judicial precedent, for the most part, is not binding on the legislature or executive branches. I think your incoherence is largely related to your connection to the public school system. I pray you receive help.

    You really are an anti-God religious zealot, and you really should learn some tolerance, and not try to push your anti-God beliefs on the rest of society.

  41. Miller Smith says:

    “You really are an anti-God religious zealot, and you really should learn some tolerance, and not try to push your anti-God beliefs on the rest of society.”

    Anti-god? You bet. It’s a bunch of crap. There is a big difference between you and I. You would use the police power of the goverment to coerce me for your religous beliefs. I would use the police powers of the government to prevent anyone from being coerced based on their belief or lack of belief in a god or gods.

    You actually think yourself ‘good’ for wanting to take money from everyone for your god. What would Jesus do? Don’t recall him demanding anything you are pushing. Him being the SOG is BS, but what an interesting non-coercive philosopher he was. He was a Jew who went to the East, learned Buddhism, came back and preached Buddhism with a Jewish spin. Heck, the Sermon on the Mount was an almost word for word rip-off of a sermon given by Buddha over 300 years earlier.

    As for roads and the post office…ha. More and more cities are handing roads over to private operation and traffic jams are being solved–for profit! Cheaper too. Post office? If competition were allowed (illegal now), you’d be paying 13 cents for first class mail.

    There are only a few things the government of a free people should be doing. Police and military protection against the initiation of force and fraud, the protection of public goods that meet the jointness-of-consumption test (clean air/eater/etc.). And schools? All we have to do is look at the schools to see how disgusting they are when the government runs them. Just the insane stuff that has happened this year alone is reason enough for Prince George’s County government to be stripped of the right to run a school system. PG County Public Schools is the perfect example of the ‘tragedy of the commons.’

    And now we have religous nuts who run around claiming out of one side of their mouth that ‘god’ in the pledge really doesn’t mean anything so they can claim a non-violation of the Consitution, and then out of the other side of their mouth demanding more ‘god’ in the government. Lots of dishonesty from the “God” people.

    I would protect you, you wouldn’t protect me. That is why you are my enemy.

    As for my classroom the kids get this message: Science and religion don’t really mix. If your religion is really true, then Science CAN’T contradict your religion. You ‘god’ could have made everything the way it appears to be now but a moment ago and you or I would know no better. Just a cursory application of logic shows why religion and Science don’t mix.

    I teach Biology (gasp!) and am constantly asked if I believe in ‘GOD.’ Well, I tell them that’s a noneya-as in none ya business. I go through the logic that some present: But how did all of this (waving their hand around) come to be if there is no god? I ask them to tell me their answer. God of course. I then ask them if they would apply that same logic to their god. It takes awhile to sink in.

    I then point out how FAITH and EMPIRICISM are not a contradiciton of one another. They don’t have to ‘believe’ the evolution I teach them, they just have to be able to show that they understand the theories evolution as they have been discovered. When they take tests or write papers they can put right in their tests and papers that they don’t believe evolution. If they can explain and show understanding of evolutionary theory they get the ‘A’.

    Heck, I even go over the creationism debates. Did you know that very few children ever hear of creation stories of other cultures and religions? Most never knew there are more than just the Judeo-Christian version. I start at A and go all the way through Z. If it weren’t for the Board forbidding bringing in creationist speakers I would have them in all the time. Creationist speakers are great for Biology classes.

    See folks, even though I think this god stuff is a bunch of crap, I don’t tell my students they have to believe a damn thing. I let them know that they have the protections of our country and can believe anything they wish and they can’t be punished or coerced for their beliefs. And if anyone tries to let me know. I’ll take care of it.

    You see folks, I would protect you, you would not protect me. You would and do insist that I be coerced into your way of thinking and pay for your way of thinking. That makes you my enemy. The day you see that what you are doing is wrong–wrong even by your own Christian ethics–then we can have common ground and due respect. I respect your right to be as you are. You don’t respect my right to be as I am.

    You are my enemy even as I am your friend. This athiest is more a Christian than you Christians are.

  42. Mad Scientist says:

    Miller:

    Please refrain from your anti-religion rants. You give the rest of us athiests a bad name. In addition, you make us appear to be no more open-minded that the religous nuts.

    Not to mention stupid.

  43. stolypin says:

    A biology teacher writes:
    “Science and religion don’t really mix.”

    A scientist once wrote:
    Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    Now – I am faced with a quandry. How am I, a quasi-agnostic going to weigh the two statements. If forced to evaluate the two statements, I ask myself, which one do I think more closely approximates a well-reasoned approach to a terribly profound question?

    Guess I’ll just have to go with Albert Einstein on this one – keeping in mind at all times of course that one choosing to disagree with me is not my enemy.

    For what it is worth, Einstein also wrote:
    My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. The deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning Power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

    FWIW, I am aware of the fact that much has been written about Einstein and that many questions arose during his long life about matters of faith. It is a complex issue and more than a few scholars deny the authenticity of Einstein’s multi-layered approach to matters of faith and/or the existence of God. What seems undeniable to me is not: a) Einstein’s faith or lack thereof; b) or the existence of God; but, rather Einstein’s willingness to posit and consider the existence of some superior being, no matter what shape or form. No snide remarks, no rude epithets. Those he saved for the Nazis.

    Whatever else may be said about Einstein his approach to life, to science, and to differing opinions seems to have been built on a foundation of kindness, openess, and civility. Perhaps if the blogosphere existed in Einstein’s lifetime he would have penned offensive, ill-mannered diatribes aimed at all those who dared to differ with him. Somehow I doubt it. No doubt I am spitting into the wind – but life is short, why not give it the old college try.

  44. “If your religion is really true, then Science CAN’T contradict your religion”

    — OK. So far we’re on the same page. I’m in the science business too, and I’ve never seen anything that contradicts what’s in the Bible. Lot’s of people jump to conclusions that they think are necessary, but are not, from evidence and think there is some contradiction, but nope, there is none.

    I’m glad to hear that you teach evolution as a theory. From a scientific perspective, that’s all it is. The same is true for Creationism.

    “You [sic] ‘god’ could have made everything the way it appears to be now but a moment ago and you or I would know no better.”
    — That’s true, and it’s also, I believe, solipsism (sp?). A philosophy that questions everything to the point that the person becomes utterly useless. Anti-God folks like you start out assuming that everything has always existed somewhere, and, more or less, ignore the entropy and energy problems that such an assumption presents. Creationists like myself think that, prior to creation, time had no meaning. Outside of the 4th Dimension, you simply can’t ask what happened “before” because before and after don’t exist. The Bible clearly describes God’s relationship to our universe as having a distinctly non-linear temporal relationship. Theologins, by the way, have speculated that the question you have posed (“I then ask them if they would apply that same logic to their god.”) may have been the original starting point for Lucifer’s fall.

    By the way, pointing out a place that is left to faith in the creationist theory does not aid the fact that your theory has the exact same problems, and probably far worse, logically speaking. Talk about coercion. You’re using your position and superior training to shame children away from their religious roots, and you haven’t presented anything that is more substantively sound. You say it takes a while for it to “sink in” with them… has the same question sunken in to you yet? You still haven’t answered their question… If “no God,” then where did it all come from? From a legal perspective, your position of authority makes your dispariging of religion a far more direct 1st Amendment problem than “under God” has ever been.

    You do your students a supreme disservice if you teach them science and religion don’t mix. Religion answers the questions that science never can. A person’s understanding of God can be informed by science. I know that’s why I like science. I recognize that God created from Himself, and therefore the order we find in the Universe reflects something of His character.

    Now… to the point of addressing my status as your enemy. Like I said, you presume too much. I don’t want to keep you from believing there is no God (actually, I think it would be a good thing to persuade you that there is, but not by coercion). I think that you shouldn’t be so militant about the issue. You and people like you are the ones forcing the issue. You and your gang are the ones who are trying to make it impossible for individuals to express their own beliefs in public.

    You seem to forget that it was the people who believe in God who have created this haven (America) where you can spout off your anti-God venom. It’s not those who believe in God who are forcing their beliefs on anyone. It’s those who are militant against God who are making it increasingly difficult to bring the discussion forward.

    I’m guessing you didn’t even notice that your tone has been all about equating including “under God” in the Pledge with “pushing God down your throat.” It’s no such thing, but you decided to make this entire discussion antagonistic because of your personal hatred for anything having to do with God. Then you have the gall to say that you would protect our rights. It’s people like you who passed a law in Tennessee so that nobody who is in the clergy could serve in state government. Yeah… that’s protetecting the rights of those who believe in God. (NOTE: That law was struck down about 100 years ago as a violation of “free exercise.”) Also, I’ve noticed that you continually refuse to calitilize the G in God. In this context, that’s a deliberate insult. You don’t have to follow the convention, but not doing so, especially after having been requested to do so, is nothing other than an intentional insult to those who respect the concept of a Creator. An atheist friend of mine has a name for folks like you. He refuses to call you an atheist; he calls you “anti-diests,” and that seems to fit.

    If letting the government define the Pledge to include “under God” but not requiring anybody to say it, and not allowing any negative reprecussions for those who don’t say it has caused you some injury, please do tell. If you can point to a particular religion that has been established by those words, I would love to know what that religion is. Secular Humanism IS a religion, and the systematic removal of all references to God is precisely in line with THAT religion… are you going to save us from Secular Humanism? No… That’s the religion that you are fighting to advance.

    I would humbly suggest, if you’re going to make heretical suggestions about Christ, that you, like the good scientist you are, kindly provide validated researches and citations to authority which backs up your proposition. Finally, you seem oddly eager to ask us what Jesus would do, and presumably you think you know that what He would do is something other than what we are advocating. Kindly, don’t bother telling me what I believe, and I won’t tell you what you believe.

  45. Miller Smith says:

    Stolypin,
    “…ill-mannered diatribes aimed at all those who dared to differ with him”

    Has it occured to you that it is ill-mannered to force one’s religion on others like those whom my diatribes are aimed at? I am forced to pay for “GOD” by these people and you think it is I who is ill-mannered?

    They drew first blood, not I.

  46. Miller Smith says:

    Bronson,
    I can tell you what you believe because you have a published rule book. I don’t have to be a believer in your insanity in order to pull out your rule book and see if you are following what it is you say you believe.

    Having the government suggest a voluntary activity like the pledge is an injury on its face. Much like the banning of all mention of religion in the government schools. Both are wrong and an injury just by the very act itself.

    Imagine Congress passing a law that changes “IN GOD WE TRUST” to “JESUS SUCKS.” Then imagine that I tell you that you suffered no injury due to this being on the money you paid taxes to be printed. You wouldn’t buy that for a second.

    And the fact that you and your cohort had a fit over “under god” being ruled illegal gives lie to the statement that there is no injury. You got a taste of how it feels for me and those like me to deal with your theology on our money and in government lead oaths. Stings don’t it? Didn’t like it for one minute did ya!? Welcome to the party pal…

    No one is preventing you from expressing your faith in public. You can even stand on public property and do so all day long for all I care. What you don’t like is the challenge by those like me to those like you who want to use public money collected involuntarily from everyone to spout your religious garbage. You want the money. Period. Didn’t your guy run people like you out of the temple?

    When the kiddies ask me where all this came from, I say we only can prove back to the Big Bang. Before that, we don’t know. And how did life begin on Earth? I also say we don’t know. We have ideas, but that’s all so far.

    Theory. You are so dishonest I am surprised your god hasn’t struck you blind…but then again, your god is a lie. An explanation based on observation and reasoning. That is what theory means in science–and you know it. You attempt to make it mean an idea or opinion about something when you know better what theory means in science. You sit there typing on a machine operating under Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. Interesting that you posit the idea that the computer works only by opinion.

    There is not one bit of reasoning involved in your faith. That’s why it’s called FAITH. Your desire to try and back up your religion with science reveals your lack of faith.

    Evolution just a theory (your type)? Tell that to the people dying of drug resistant bacteria infections. That is EVOLUTION is action buddy. Evolution in your face. Go tell the dead they died due to an opinion.

    God’s character is revealed by the world around us? You don’t want to get me started on that one. If that be true, your god is one sick puppy.

  47. stolypin says:

    It was not my intent to imply that the lack of civility is limited to any one poster and to the extent it was taken that way the fault falls on my shoulders as I did not express myself as clearly as I should have on that point. Many people justify their own rudeness on the “Johnny did it first” theory. Although I understand the concept I sometimes forget that there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

    I can be as rude and sarcastic as the next person so lest anyone think I was trying be be a bit holier-than-though (using holier in a purely secular sense of course)I add only that I use my own cautionary words as a menas to remind myself [me?] to control the urge to respond vicerally rather than rationally. I tend to resort to the latter when I feel no hope that the latter will be effective. I try not to use anger as a court of first resort. As a practical professional matter, I find that responding civilly in the face of unspeakable rudeness does more to advance my position than any other tactic – plus it drives my adversaries nuts. Just a thought.

  48. A theory is a hypothesis that has not been disproven and explains (fully or partially) what is observed. Theories are difficult to PROVE because they need understanding that goes down nearly to first principles and explains all observations related to the subject matter.

    Theories are not “known” to a certainty, but they’re useful. Generally they represent some amount of truth, even if, ultimately, they don’t capture it completely. Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are excellent examples. They work in limited circumstances, but they are well known not be be complete.

    “I say we only can prove back to the Big Bang.”
    — Then you lied to your students. You have EVIDENCE of a big bang, but no PROOF. Actually, scientists are becoming less and less certain about the whole “Big Bang” theory because of the mathematical problems that arise near the moment of the bang and the problems with distributing the physical characteristics of the universe evenly, even though the Big Bang would have required a faster-than-light expansion initially. Hence… THEORY… It’s UNPROVEN, but arguably usable.

    For what it’s worth, I’m an engineer (and a law student). We’re generally interested in scientific knowledge that is USABLE. Theories that approximate reality sufficiently to make stuff work is good enough. So… No intellectual dishonesty in typing this comment.

    A “Jesus Sucks” indication is a fairly direct attack on a particular religion (Christianity). The phrase “under God” does not advance or hinder any religion, and under the LAW as it currently stands, the government IS allowed to make those sorts of acknowledgments. Heck, you don’t believe in God, so what does it matter to you? You spoke of “[h]aving the government suggest a voluntary activity like the pledge is an injury on its face.” You are incorrect. (You spend an awful lot of time being incorrect… I forgot you “teach” at a public school so you do that professionally.) To be an injury per se, a law must directly infringe on a fundamental right. For example if a law said that “No person with red-hair may vote in a presidential election.” That would be a law that injures on it’s face. You’re offended, but being offended does not mean that you’ve been injured. What fundamental right has been infringed? Banning all mention of God in a public school would not be an injury IF no competing theory were presented in its place. If schools kept to teaching basic information, and did not wander into questions that are fundamentally religious, then no mention of God would be appropriate. However, when you start teaching stuff like “origin of life,” you’ve necessarily stepped into religious territory.

    Before I move along… Congress is the correct place to change this. If Congress wanted to remove the phrase, you would find many disappointed people who believe in God, but I seriously doubt you would see any court action. What is being opposed here is interference by the Court into an arena that is within the realm of the legislature. The source of the law is very important for this question. No supporter of the Pledge is saying (so far as I know) that WE have a Constitutional mandate to include the phrase “under God,” only that YOU don’t have the right to keep the legislature from including that phrase since you have not been injured by it.

    “Evolution just a theory (your type)? Tell that to the people dying of drug resistant bacteria infections. That is EVOLUTION is action buddy. Evolution in your face. Go tell the dead they died due to an opinion.”

    That is just about the most ignorant thing I’ve heard since the last time I read an opinion by Justice Ginsburg. Natural selection is NOT evolution. Evolution involves changing from one species into another. Natural selection is a matter of statistics. No variation of natural selection has ever been shown to make one species become a different species. If you’re going to broadly define species to be each distinct genetic variation, then each person is his or her own species. A genetic variation that reduces the suceptibility to a particular type of weakness will tend to allow more of the individuals in the population of that SPECIES with the varied characteristic to survive. That variation becomes more prevalent throughout the population, and might even become nearly universal, but its still just a variation within the species. Evolution *might* follow a path that initially resembles natural selection, if the theory is true. However, if the theory were true, we would find some intermediate species. We haven’t found any. Missing links are missing everywhere… not just between humans and monkeys.

    Point being, you’ve got a theory based on PREMISES that are unproven (and probably unproveable) and those who believe in God have a theory based on premises that are unproven and unproveable. Your acceptance of the premises of evolution is every bit as much FAITH as are mine. If FAITH has no place in science, then I suspect you need to find a different line of work.

    For your information, NO, picking up the Bible does not make you a Biblical expert. Just because you can find a passage that you *think* supports your proposition does not mean that you have proven your point. I haven’t bothered to correct your mistaken interpretations of the Bible since you don’t respect it anyway, but I’ll give you one quick example of how you’re WAY off base: Jesus and the money-changers – (See Matt. 21:12-13) The vendors in the Temple served an important purpose, since not everybody had the required animal for a sacrifice. The problem was that the vendors were cheating the needy people who needed a sacrifice, and weren’t wealthy enough to own a home with livestock. Jesus referred to them as “robbers.” Taking advantage of the needy in commercial transactions was always prohibited by the Law (Torah). You *might* have an analogy to this story if the phrase on the money referring to God made the money unspendable by atheists. This is not the case. You haven’t been cheated out of anything.

    To tell you the truth, “In God We Trust.” is exceptionally appropriate ever since we took the dollar off of the gold standard. The value of our money isn’t based on anything but our hope that we will continue to be a nation governed by just laws that allow continued prosperity. Like it or not, our laws have been derived almost entirely from the Bible and Biblical principles, so… it’s true… at least as far as our money is concerned, America does trust in God.

  49. Mark Odell says:

    Texas Teacher wrote: A kid has an absolute right to stand (or even sit) mute — but may not cause a disturbance by trying to recite some other pledge or invoking civil disobedience.

    The problem is, “cause a disturbance” is one of those very-flexible phrases; e.g., it can be (and has been) translated as “do anything that power-holders don’t like”.

    If there is no law mandating that students recite the pledge, then where does “invoking civil disobedience” come in?

    As for starting the day with the pledge, it is a matter of state law down here that we do both the Pledge of Allegience and the Texas Pledge (“Honor the Texas flag. I pledge allegience to thee, Texas one and indivisible.”).

    I should like to examine this law, if only to verify that:
    (1) it conforms to the U.S. Constitution (I can read the Constitution for myself just fine, thank you);
    (2) it conforms to the Texas Constitution (ditto);
    (3) it places the legal burden on the school system, and not the student. (You say “we do both”, so who’s “we”?)

    Jill wrote: I really don’t think my 2nd grader is going to concern himself with what his teacher thinks if he doesn’t say the pledge (and my kid WOULD say the pledge, BTW).

    Is that because the teacher made him say it, because you made him say it, or because he wants to say it (due to misunderstanding/deception about what the pledge really is and means)?

    In any event, your kid has my deepest sympathy.

    If a parent objects, they can send a note at the beginning of school saying that their child would not be saying the pledge

    Strike one — since when must I account to a mere school district for what my child doesn’t say? Whose authority says so, by what standards, and for what cogent reasons?

    (they would have to stand up out of respect for the flag).

    Strike two — your definition of “respect”, and for what exactly, is what we’re arguing about (and what does “have to” mean?). As explained above, this is exactly backwards; my servants should be respecting me.

    Then their butts would be covered and everyone would be happy.

    Strike three — I’m already not “happy”, nor should I be at this news.

    The Texas law says that the schools will participate in the US pledge and the Texas pledge daily – it doesn’t say that all students must participate.

    Which raises a question: Are any students ever told this before the first pledge of the school year is recited? (Call me cynical, call me crazy, call me irresponsible :-), but I’m guessing the answer is No. Why might that be?)

    We used to say the pledge only one a week in the high schools. Now we say it daily, and I would venture a guess that in my classroom, about 1/3 of the kids participate. It’s their choice – they don’t have to say it if they don’t wat to,

    And do you in fact tell them this (just in the interest of, oh, I don’t know, maybe, full disclosure?) before the pledge is recited for the first time? If not, why not?

    but it allows those kids who actually care about the principals that this country was founded upon to express their loyalty to this great land of ours.

    First of all, they’re expressing their loyalty to the state, not the country; and second, this has nothing to do with “the principals that this country was founded upon”. Quite the reverse.

    Bronson wrote: The fact that the phrases were added in the 1950s does not all of the sudden make our founding fathers godless heathens. The phrases were added in large part as a tribute to the FACT that the founders had a great deal of religious faith.

    I am acquainted with the apologia for this view, and IMCO it still doesn’t wash, because it’s still ultra vires of the legislative and executive.

    TexasTeacher wrote: First, while the Texas law does require the day begin with the pledge it also contains specific language conforming to theholding in the SCOTUS case cited above. Even if it did not, that case would be controlling ad would render any prosecution or punishment prescribed unenforcible.

    So, logically, the Texas law is moot and should be repealed as the dead-letter it is (unless the Texas legislature is more interested in enshrining symbolism over substance, not an unlikely conjecture).

    For lack of a better phrase, you appear to be a Taliban Atheist out to do to the pledge what those folks did to the Buddhas in Afghanistan.

    Perhaps a more apt analogy than you know, in that the pledge has no more to do with our inherent rights and liberties than the stone Buddhas have to do with the real Eight-Fold Path.

    Bronson wrote: The Pledge (GOVERNMENT LOYALTY OATH, as you seem to enjoy describing it) is a voluntary expression of patriotism.

    (“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” — Confucius[Kong Fu-Zhi])

    But that’s the point — there are no voluntary expressions when their setting is itself an involuntary one (see: compulsory-schooling laws). Besides which, you seem to have mistaken “allegiance/loyalty to the state” for “patriotism”.

    I’ll tell you what I think… I think that, for the most part, these questions are for the legislative and executive branches of government… you know, the representative branches that institute the will of the FREE PEOPLE.

    I fear you are ravingly optimistic, giving the “representative” branches of the fedgov far too much credit for integrity (the Framers sure didn’t).

    The Judiciary should not readily choose to overrule the other branches of government, and there are specific rules of construction (statutory interpretation) that are to be employed so that, if possible, a statute will be upheld.

    In other words, the bias of the rules (and those who made them) is construed most strongly in favor of the state’s interest. What a surprise.

    If no reasonable interpretation could allow that the law might fall within the restrictions of the Constitution, then it must be overturned.

    “Could”? “Might”? Weasel words already? (Oh, and minions of the state get to decide what “reasonable” means. How utterly convenient.)

    Likewise, if it is shown by experience, that the law is enforced in a manner that restricts the Constitutional rights of the people, then it is unconstitutional.

    But not only for that reason; the law can also be prima facie unconstitutional (ultra vires leaps to mind as a reason), and how (or even if) it’s enforced is irrelevant.

    Any judge that leaps at the opportunity to overturn the representative branches of government to impose his or her own vision of the Constitution or justice, or whathaveyou, is unfit. You demonstrate that you are unwilling to examine the issue according to the rules that the Supreme Court has established and that indicates that you are unfit to be a judge.

    Did you mean to imply that you are unwilling to examine the very rules that the Supreme Court has “established”? If so, why? Does this indicate that you are fit to be a judge? If so, why?

    My “own vision of the Constitution” is to follow its plain language, and “impose” its restrictions only on those to whom its authority is senior: the central government, NOT We The People.

    What’s yours?

    Finally, my position on Abortion. I fully recognize that the LAW as it currently stands allows abortion, more or less, on demand. I also recognize (since I’ve read the cases), that the Supreme Court has not squarely addressed the central issue of 14th Amendment protection for the unborn child,

    And for that matter, it seems to me that SCOTUS has never squarely addressed the central issue of 14th Amendment constitutionality in the first place.

    so that if I, as a federal judge were to make a factual determination that the unborn child was a live human, then that finding could only be reviewed according to the “clearly erroneous” standard of review (see the 7th Amendment, but I’m not going to go all the way through the development of appellate jurisprudence).

    Here we see a great argument for why the legislative branch should limit SCOTUS’ appellate jurisdiction.

    You see, I know what the LAW is, and I know what it is not.

    No, you know what the corpus juris is, and you seem to have mistaken that for the supreme Law of the Land (a misconception widely shared: at last count, 99% of lawyers, law professors, and the judiciary itself).

    Moreover, I know (or would in a given case) where the law has previously spoken

    Would it be impertinence to suggest that you read the Constitution to find out what it actually says and where it “has previously spoken”, instead of relying on the (possible mis)interpretations of previous “authorities” inferior to it? If you don’t read the actual founding document, and when said “authorities” turn out to be mistaken–or even all wrong from scratch–how would you ever know it?

    and therefore where I must follow by stare decisis prior decisions, and where I could interpret the law.

    Stare decisis is legalese for “rubber-stamp”.

    As it turns out, the decisions that allow abortion are remarkably shallow, which is why they are so hard-fought in the lowerer courts. The pro-abortion side knows that a more thorough review of the relevant legal history and science would likely result in the prohibition of abortion in nearly all cases.

    Despite your possibly-premature confidence: Be that as it may, the legislative branch should limit appellate jurisdiction until the judiciary shows evidence of a return to sanity.

    BTW, your screed against government involvment in “social issues” demonstrates a profound misunderstanding about what law is. ALL law (tax policy, criminal code, zoning laws, common law, etc.) is an expression of what is called “public policy.”

    Thank you for stating the problem so succinctly.

    Everything the government does is related to social issues. I’m not saying that the government should be involved in ALL social issues, but everything it does do is related to some social issue.

    When you invoke stare decisis, and thus fail to oppose or even so much as question the correctness of any judicial decisions whatsoever (especially those stemming from judicial usurpations), themselves affirming legislative usurpations, then yes, in essence you are saying that.

    Roads? Postal service? There’s lots of stuff that the government is explicitly and implicitly authorized to do via the Constitution.

    Explicitly authorized, yes (that’s the whole point of e.g. Article I, Section 8). Implicitly authorized, no (and stretching the meaning of “necessary and proper” doesn’t get us there).

    I’m not in the least saying that it *should* be everywhere that it is, but that’s beside the point.

    No, that’s not beside the point, that’s precisely the point.

    Yes, everything the government does is via coercion, implicit or explicit. Progressive tax rates discourage economic growth, and hence Reagan’s (and many people like him, including yours truly) desire to cut and flatten the income tax rates (since we’re just not going to get rid of it anytime soon).

    Did you even try?

    High tax rates on specific items are intended to decrease their use (tobacco, booze, etc.).

    No, high tax rates on specific items are intended to increase the flow of loot to the fedgov, on the “soak the rich” hypothesis; any “social engineering” byproducts are gravy. And, sometimes, they’re intended to create criminal organizations (this time, private for the most part) which can then be used as an excuse for increased “law-enforcement” spending and empire-building (see: War On Drugs).

    Yes, the government (states) can pretty much outlaw anything not protected by the federal government. I’m not a big fan of everywhere it’s applied, but that’s how things are. Don’t get pissed at me because I happen to be able to discern reality and it’s not in conformance to your fantasy.

    Your ability to discern “reality” is not the problem. What appears to be your supine, abject, willing acceptance of “how things are” is the problem.

    For the most part, if the government can put forward a rational basis for why some activity should be outlawed,

    A “rational” basis, or merely a plausible-sounding one — which just happens to comport with the irrational self-interest of power-holders to wield ever more power over individuals’ lives and property?

    and that basis has some relationship to a legitimate government purpose, then the law will be upheld.

    That is to say: some increasingly-tenuous, far-fetched relationship to a legitimate government purpose, asymptotic at zero.

    I presume you’re speaking of the Lawrence v. Texas case. Guess what, (1) the law was struck down, so you should be happy, (2) the activity now protected by the constitution is nowhere to be found within the constitution,

    Did you mean to imply that if an activity is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, then no right of individuals to it is guaranteed? That’s not an uncommon notion (and one which certainly resonates with the state’s power-lust), but it is incorrect.

    (3) Noting how homosexuals, as a generalized group, act and determining that behavior to be incompatible with the best interests of the health and well being of the people in the state would normally, that is before Justice Kennedy found a new constitutional right to sodomy, be an adequate basis for the law,

    Except, perhaps, in states with constitutions which, by their subordination clauses, recognize the supremacy of the Constitution?

    It is not impeachable to keep your decisions within the law that has already been decided, if the decision can be made there.

    Again, “the law that has already been decided” means the corpus juris, tradition, and custom; note well that as little as possible is said about the actual wording of the Constitution. Which makes sense in a way: because if they mentioned it too often, without adequate rhetorical/anti-intellectual safeguards (AKA fallacies) in place to protect their “vision of the Constitution” from scrutiny, then people might actually start reading the founding document for themselves, directly! Why, if they did that, they might start thinking for themselves and get out of control! Oh no! That means they might not need the judicial priesthood anymore to “interpret” what the “living document” Constitution “really” means, and then where would we be? (“In short, gentlemen, we’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”)
    {/SARCASM}

    The canons of construction to which I referred ARE based on precedent. The deference to the representative branches by the judiciary is found throughout American legal history.

    So are unconstitutional usurpations. What’s your point?

    Part of the design philosophy of the system is that the three branches are supposed to be in conflict amongst themselves (“checks and balances”, “gridlock”), and so judicial “deference” to anything other than the plain language of the Constitution is certainly not desirable. (Of course, it’s very desirable from the state’s viewpoint, since the branches “going along to get along” works in its favor.)

  50. Miller Smith says:

    Bronson,

    All theories have predictive powers. Religion does not. Ergo, Science and Religion don’t mix. Given the velocity and acceleration vectors of an object of known mass, theory can and does predict the future location of the mass. You can pray all day and your god won’t tell you a thing.

    “A “Jesus Sucks” indication is a fairly direct attack on a particular religion (Christianity). The phrase “under God” does not advance or hinder any religion, and under the LAW as it currently stands, the government IS allowed to make those sorts of acknowledgments.”

    Then you would have no constitutional objection to the government acknowledging Satan?

    “That is just about the most ignorant thing I’ve heard since the last time I read an opinion by Justice Ginsburg. Natural selection is NOT evolution. “

    Natural Selection is THE way Evolution occurs on this planet.

    “Point being, you’ve got a theory based on PREMISES that are unproven (and probably unproveable) and those who believe in God have a theory based on premises that are unproven and unproveable. Your acceptance of the premises of evolution is every bit as much FAITH as are mine. If FAITH has no place in science, then I suspect you need to find a different line of work. “

    Uh…a theory that is unprovable is not a theory in Science. For a theory to be a theory or a hypothesis to be a hypothesis they must be testable and subject to the Principle of Falsifiability. Religion does not hold itself to this self-correcting mechanism. Ergo, again, Science and Religion don’t mix.
    The fact that you don’t know this and in fact argue the opposite rips from you the credibility of your claim of being an engineer. You could be, but it is less likely that you are.

    Hmmm. So long as money is not unspendable by a Christian, “JESUS SUCKS” or “NO GODS NEEDED” on money would not harm you and you should just deal with it…not bloody likely! Ha!

    “America does trust in God.”

    I am a member of the set ‘America.’ I do not trust in any imaginary spook. Therefore, ‘America’ does not “trust in God.”

    See the level of your religious hegemony? You have just demonstrated why people like me are so radical towards the government confiscating property from everyone—theists and atheists—and using that property for even the smallest acknowledgement of anyone’s religious orientation. Even your Jesus made it clear that you don’t coerce anything from anyone for his religion. True Christianity is absolutely voluntary. At no time did your Jesus ever tell his followers to use government to force any part of his philosophy on anyone. How in the world did you and other crypto-Christians ever get the idea to use the coercive powers of the government to rub you brand of religion in our faces? You attitude is,”We have the power to do it so we can.” That sure as hell ain’t your Jesus.

  51. Mad Scientist says:

    I would seriously suggest that those who believe that religion and science are mutually exclusive to actually read some books on the matter.

    And I don’t mean just the God v. Darwin or Gallileo v. Pope stories.

    My sister, the theologian, teaches courses on science and religion. She could have a field day with the likes of people arguing both sides of this issue equally well.

    In fact, I may just recommend that she join in. She needs a good laugh.

  52. stolypin says:

    Mad Scientist, I eagerly await your sister’s comments. Hope she hurries before this thread gets archived!

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