Perhaps the best thing regarding that 9th Circuit Court panel's dilatory vaporing about "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was the public's dissing response.
No more the dismayed mutterings of conservatives. No more, among the yadda-yadda brigades, the confident applause for still another gallantry the court has performed for the lefty faithful.
From President Bush to South Dakota's gift of a Senate majority leader, the reaction ranged from "ridiculous" to "too far." The Senate, which opens every daily session with a prayer, passed by 99-0 a measure reaffirming Congress' 1954 "under God" wording. Not a single prominent federal, state or local politician of either party has surfaced to expatiate in favor of the panel's mangled reasoning. Even leading liberal lights among the lawyerly intelligentsia confidently proclaimed the ruling - if not displaced by the full 11-member appellate court - would be overturned by the Supremes.
This, of course, is predicated on a high court whose oral arguments are preceded by "God save the United States and this honorable Court!" Yet it is the same high court that has banned, among other things, organized prayer in classes, at graduations, and prior to those most revered of all our national rites - high-school and collegiate football games, the minor leagues for the pros.
The case can be made - as a former law clerk to Antonin Scalia, a dissenter in the cases cited by the 9th Circuit, has noted - that in the 9th Circuit's ruling the Supreme Court is "reaping what it sowed." Said a big boy in church-state law about the ruling: "It is eminently defensible. ... The court is applying principles the Supreme Court has established." Remember the ACLU's National Policy No. 84, made famous during the Bush-Dukakis presidential campaign ("The insertion of the words 'under God' is unconstitutional and should be forbidden")? Maybe the lefties are strategically muted for good strategic reason.
The 9th Circuit's finding is nonetheless fruitcake from start to finish - beginning with where the case started, the plaintiff.
Michael Newdow is a California atheist who styles himself the founding minister of the First Amendment Church of True Science (FACTS). Among his great detestations are gender-indicative words such as he, she, his, and hers. (For instance, he would replace the first two with "re".. "Try it out: 'Re went to the store.' It's easy.") Tired of seeing his divorced wife in court over the custody of their second-grade daughter, he says the term "in the best interests of the child" infuriates him. And now that he has avenged the daily offense the Pledge has given his daughter's ears, he intends to challenge "In God We Trust" on the currency.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has stipulated grandly his department's determination to "defend the ability of our nation's children to pledge allegiance to the American flag." But that ability may now be, in fact, unconstitutional. Ditto the national motto enacted by Congress in 1956 and appearing on all our money. And what about the high court's pre-oral-argument appeals to the Deity, and the daily prayers opening Congress, and the swearings-in - even of presidents: Can they be far behind on the discard pile of history?
Moreover, will some of our most hallowed songs be purged from the national songbook the way certain mainline churches have purged them from their hymnals - e.g., "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (because of "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord," and "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me"), "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" ("Great God our King'), "America the Beautiful" ("America, America, God shed his grace on thee"), and "God Bless America"? From the ridiculous to the sublime....
The 9th Circuit's zombies may find "under God" as objectionable as (their words) "a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation under 'no god.'" But less muddied minds understand that like it or not ours is a Christian nation.
The first document of our Founding - the Mayflower Compact - begins, "In the name of God, Amen." God was a principal presence in the lives of our earliest European arrivals, a genuine part, as William Bradford testifies throughout his Plymouth Plantation. In Virginia and Massachusetts they held Thanksgivings to thank God for seeing them through. During the Colonial period and across the subsequent centuries, many have wandered - as they have been constantly reminded by the likes of Jonathan Edwards, that they were but "sinners in the hands of an angry God."
Yes, ours has been the God of Christians. But the great abiding fact has been that under Him all non-Christians have been welcomed and tolerated. Toleration is a Christian principle fostered by the Christian God of our Founding - and of us still, as we have been reminded frequently in the 9/11 aftermath regarding, especially, Muslims ("Love thy neighbor").
The cross is a Christian symbol - not Jewish, Buddhist, Taoist or Wahhabist. It is the symbol pictured in a widely circulated AP photo, and built of World Trade Center girders and erected at Ground Zero. It symbolizes not exclusion but inclusion - a transfiguring embrace of those of all faiths, and of no faith, whose lives were lost that fateful fatal day.
And it recalls the complete fourth verse from "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," which thank God they haven't yet taken out of my church's hymnal:
Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty, to thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King.
Here's an idea.
Maybe someone will find the windows of the 9th Circuit nifties and Michael Newdow and similarly slow learners. And maybe they'll bring along some beers and some burgers and set up a grill - and serenade them with those compelling words, and wave a few placards showing the Ground Zero cross. And ask them to come on down and join their celebration of The Fourth.
That way, on this Fourth, they just might get the message, as they obviously have not gotten it so far (it's really a piece of cake, easier than even "Re went to the store"), as to what "under God" really is all about - the liberty that is the Ultimate Cause.
Oh, and they should be sure to wish them a Happy Fourth, too.