Let's get government, not God - out of our schools
7/18/2002 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder
The plot thickens.
Michael Newdow, a 49-year-old father/lawyer/doctor sends his
daughter to Elk Grove Elementary School near Sacramento. California law
requires every public school to make some sort of patriotic affirmation each
day, with the Elk Grove school district choosing the Pledge of Allegiance.
Newdow, an atheist, claims his daughter must "watch and listen
as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates
in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God, and that our's (sic) is 'one
nation under God.'" Surprisingly, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1
decision likely to be reversed, sided with Newdow. The mother of Newdow's
daughter, however, now says she disagrees with Newdow's cause, and that his
daughter attends a Christian church and actually enjoys reciting the phrase
Even before the mother's public denunciation of Newdow's cause,
the decision outraged Americans. After all, some 30 million Americans do not
believe in God, and somehow, some way, they manage to navigate in a world
full of Christians. "Nuts," "ludicrous," "ridiculous," said politicians from
the left to the right. The Senate hastily passed a resolution, 99-0,
condemning the decision. Since the law does not require the girl to stand or
to even recite the pledge, what's the problem?
Now, can we all calm down?
True, Christians founded America. The term "In God We Trust"
appears on our currency and serves as our national motto. The Supreme Court
and Congress begin their sessions with invocations. Denying America's
Judeo-Christian foundation diminishes America's heritage, as well as the
importance of its ethical moorings.
The first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, said,
"Providence has given to our people the choice of their ruler, and it is the
duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to
select and prefer Christians for their rulers." Patrick Henry stated this
about America: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this
great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on
religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." President Harry S. Truman
said, "This is a Christian nation."
Yet the Founding Fathers, while devout and primarily Christian
men, made no reference to God or to a creator in the Constitution. Moreover,
the Constitution specifically refuses any sort of religious test to hold
public office, and the oath of office set forth in the Constitution does not
include the words "so help me God."
From 1782 through 1956, "E Pluribus Unum," not "In God We
Trust," served as our national motto. And a Baptist minister, Francis
Bellamy, wrote the Pledge in 1892, omitting the words "under God." A
campaign by a Christian organization drummed up support for the words "under
God," which Congress inserted in 1954.
Critics of the court's decision say that the words "under God"
do not establish a state religion, let alone Christianity. Newdow argues,
however, that "under God" excludes other religions. The pledge does not, for
example, say "under Allah," "under Buddha" or "under Krishna." "Under God"
also suggests one God, or monotheism. Newdow says defenders of "under God"
want it both ways. They embrace the nation's Christian tradition, arguing,
quite properly, that "under God" underscores America's Christian heritage.
Yet, then they claim "under God" serves a sort of all-purpose reference to a
deity, not to a specific God, let alone a specific religion.
Conservative UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh
said, "The majority decision is actually a very plausible reading of the
Supreme Court precedents. The Supreme Court is almost certainly going to
have to decide this." Respected U.C. Berkeley constitutional law scholar
Jesse Choper said, "You could get a panel of any federal appellate court
anywhere in the country who could come this way plausibly." And liberal
University of Southern California constitutional law professor Erwin
Chemerinsky agreed with the decision.
Must we remove "In God We Trust" from our currency? Will
Congress or the Supreme Court cease opening sessions with a religious
invocation? No. These things require no affirmation on the part of the
citizen, distinguishing it from the element of coercion in this particular
God remains in our minds, our hearts, and in our souls. So
instead of fighting to retain God in government schools, why not battle to
remove government from education? That
is the real
Under our modern welfare state, we silently accept
unconstitutional assaults like Medicare, Social Security, farm subsidies,
tax-provided college loan/grant programs, the federal operation of Amtrak,
corporate welfare and the like. But take out "under God" from the pledge --
again, a decision likely to be reversed -- and, by God (can I say that?), we
march on Washington.