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A Nation “Under God”? Hardly


Religious Americans and the politicians who cater to them are exposing yet again their intolerance of the minority of Americans who don’t share their beliefs.
 
Those in the religious majority claim to respect minority rights. But that’s clearly not so. Their response to the recent federal district court ruling in Sacramento against the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance makes that obvious. It was the same bigoted reaction as they had last year to those who unsuccessfully urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court ruling that the phrase is in conflict with the constitutionally-promised separation of church and state.
 
The Supreme Court refused to rule, on grounds that atheist Michael Newdow, who won the lower court ruling on behalf of his elementary school daughter, did not have legal standing to do so because he did not have legal custody of the child.
 
But Newdow, an attorney, returned to court this year as an advocate for two families who complained that their children are illegally forced to pledge allegiance to “one nation under God.” District Judge Lawrence Karlton agreed that the words in the pledge violate the right of school children to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”
 
The response has been swift — and predictable. Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said the district court decision is an example of “where judges do not protect us from having religion imposed upon us but rather declare war on religion.”
 
Randy Thomasson, president of the California-based Campaign for Children and Families, called it “another bad ruling that warps the U.S. Constitution and dashes parents’ hopes of patriotism in the next generation.” Thomasson characterized as “insanity” the 2002 Appeals Court decision that originally struck down the pledge. For a lower court to strike it down again, he said, was “like a dog returning to its vomit.”
 
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, D.C., already has announced it will appeal the decision to the Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and on to the Supreme Court if necessary.  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has promised that the Bush administration, which had opposed last year’s Appeals Court ruling, also will fight to overturn the latest ruling.
 
For now, the decision applies only to the three Sacramento County school districts where Newdow’s daughter and those of the parents he represents are enrolled, but rulings by a higher court would likely apply nationwide.
 
Whatever happens, you can be sure our pious political leaders will remain steadfastly on the side of God, as they were in denouncing the 2004 decision. As usual, they are bombarding us with religious propaganda, while allowing those who argue on the basis of religious faith to prevail in debates on abortion, gay rights and other important secular matters. As usual, they are demonstrating that, although elected by mere mortals, they answer to a higher authority, the Constitution be damned.
 
The most recent surveys show that nearly 42 million Americans are atheists, agnostics or otherwise have no religion. Although many of them have a moral code at least as strong as that of religious Americans, they are generally seen by government officials and others as immoral. They are consistently treated as second-class citizens, their views — their very existence — barely even acknowledged.
 
President Bush has declared, for instance, that “Americans feel our reliance on the Creator who made us … We received our rights from God” — and apparently not from the Constitution.
 
Bush and other political leaders ­ Democrats and Republicans alike ­ had denounced last year¹s decision in a stunning display of political opportunism, posturing and hypocrisy rarely seen since the days of McCarthyism in the 1950s, when politicians were forever denouncing Communists and their supporters, real and imagined. That¹s when ³under God² was inserted into the pledge to differentiate the United States from the ³Godless² Soviet Union.
 
The religious majority obviously cares not at all that its views are being imposed on others, thanks to the majority’s irrational certainty that its views are correct. No proof, only blind faith, is offered as evidence that this is “one nation under God” — and none is required, because the majority rules.
 
Ironically, the purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance originally was to help bring Americans together, whatever their political beliefs and whatever their religion — or lack of it.  The pledge promises “liberty and justice for all” – not just for those who provide the most votes.
 
Copyright (c) 2005 Dick Meister, a San Francisco writer. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.

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