From the beginning of our constitutional history, the government has honored the God of the Bible, from congressional chaplains, to national days of prayer, to opening prayers in the Supreme Court, to Congress's authorization in 1800 -- when the seat of government moved to Washington, D.C. -- for the Capitol building also to serve as a church building.
The Establishment Clause, like the Free Exercise Clause, was supposed to guarantee, not restrict religious freedom. But the Supreme Court, in its activist distortions, has largely turned the clause into a weapon against religion liberties, and lower courts have followed suit, and worse.
In the Pledge cases, the argument is that when a public school teacher leads the students in reciting the Pledge, which includes the words "under God," the government is endorsing (establishing) religion. And, to the objection that students may choose not to participate, the anti-pledgers say, "Students are virtually coerced by peer pressure to participate. They will feel offended or uncomfortable if they don't."
The Supreme Court, if it hears this case, may hold that the thrust of the Pledge is patriotic and secular, and that "under God," is therefore incidental and not the establishment of religion. But the Court should never have to base its decision on such nuance in this area.
The Establishment Clause was never intended to apply to such removed, indirect nods toward religion. And it does not guarantee our right not to be offended or made to feel uncomfortable.
But more importantly, it was not intended to be used as a sword against the free exercise of religion. By going out of its way to find Establishment Clause violations on such tenuous grounds, the Court deprives students who want to recite the Pledge of their free exercise rights. In this way, the religion clauses are turned on their heads to achieve a result entirely opposite from that intended by the Framers.
If the Pledge's opponents ultimately prevail, the government will not be adopting a neutral stance toward religion, but one that prefers atheism -- kicking God further out the door.
Beware of those who speciously champion the mythical separation of church and state in the name of religious liberty. All too often the result of their advocacy is the suppression, not the expansion of religious liberties.
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