John Leo

In none of these versions is there the remotest danger that a religion is being established. The majority argued that "under God' is the equivalent of saying that America is "under Jesus," "under Vishnu" or "under Zeus." But unless you are writing a comic skit for Monty Python, mentioning God in the schools is not comparable to dedicating the class to Zeus or Vishnu.

The two-man majority also made the mistake of employing the hurt-feelings argument. The "under God" phrase allegedly made the young daughter of the plaintiff uncomfortable. Though she did not have to recite the pledge herself (the Supreme Court settled that issue long ago), she had to suffer the alleged ordeal of hearing other children recite it. Judge Ferdinand Fernandez disposed of this pop-therapy concern nicely: "Some people may not feel good about hearing the phrases recited in their presence, but then others might not feel good if they are omitted." That's the problem with feelings. Since everybody has them, they can't be much of a clinching argument.

The court ruling opens the door to a serious discussion of the aggressive ideological campaign against religion. As Christopher Lasch wrote in "The Revolt of the Elites," the elites' attitudes toward religion "range from indifference to active hostility," which is not much of a gamut. While using high-road rhetoric (safeguarding church-state separation allows all faiths to flourish, etc.) the elites have pursued low-road policies, relentlessly working to drive religion from the public square.

History textbooks have been scrubbed clean of religious references and holidays scrubbed of all religious references and symbols. Some intellectuals now contend that arguments by religious people should be out of bounds in public debate, unless, of course, they agree with the elites.

In schools the anti-religion campaign is often hysterical. When schoolchildren are invited to write about any historical figure, this usually means they can pick Stalin or Jeffrey Dahmer, but not Jesus or Luther, because religion is reflexively considered dangerous in schools and loathsome historical villains aren't. Similarly a moment of silence in the schools is wildly controversial because some children might use it to pray silently on public property. Oh, the horror. The overall message is that religion is backward, dangerous and toxic. That's why we have decisions like the one from the 9th Circuit.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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