The Supreme Court?s evasive nonruling on whether the phrase ?under God? belongs in the Pledge of Allegiance is not playing well across the country. The most common complaint seems to be that the court ?punted,? a polite way of saying that the justices did not want to do their job by ruling on the substance of the issue. Call me a cynic, but I think the liberals on the court didn?t want to cause an uproar that would help Republicans in an election year. Better to come up with a soothing but temporary political decision -- restoring ?under God? for now while clearly inviting a future challenge that the court will be only too happy to grant once the political coast is clear. We deserve a better, more honest Supreme Court.
Like many lawyers, Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University Law School, was not impressed by the fig leaf chosen by the court: that the California atheist who brought the challenge was not the custodial parent of the child reciting the pledge and therefore lacked standing to bring suit. The court misunderstood legal developments in California, Turley said, where the state Supreme Court does not grant absolute control of a child to the custodial parent. Even noncustodial atheists have a stake in the way their children are raised. More important, Turley caught the mood of cynicism about this decision by writing, in Newsday, that the court was dancing an eyes-closed shuffle to avoid a ruling. ?At the head of this constitutional conga line,? Turley wrote, ?was an 84-year-old justice, John Paul Stevens, who showed that an octogenarian can still dance wildly in a crowded legal room without touching a single substantive issue.?