Thursday, August 30, 2007

I don’t give a damn what the Supremes have said about “civic religion”

And, I believe the federal judge who refused to grant David and Shannon Croft a preimilanry injunction for their children to stop reciting the new ”under God” Texas Pledge of Allegiance got it wrong in this case. Nor do I agree with Texas AG Greg Abbott’s sophisms.

First, in the case of “voluntary” prayer in schools vs. a moment of silence, SCOTUS has found that, by the situation in which it takes place, to be inherently coercive, even if officially ‘voluntary.”

Second, despite the sneering denial of Justice Antonin Scalia, so-called “civil religion” is religious. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t give it the label of “civil religion.”

Third, the noble (albeit Deistic, not Christian) sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, aren’t the “supreme law of the land,” Mr. Texas Attorney General. The U.S. Constitution, which nowhere uses the word “god,” is.

Fourth, I believe the empirical exemplars Abbott cites of House and Senate chaplains are also unconstitutional. (Bill of Rights father James Madison had concerns about them more than 200 years ago, by the way.)

Abbott even tries to find liberal support from the late Justice William Brennan:

Even Justice William Brennan — by no means one of the high court’s most conservative members — admitted in the 1963 case School District of Abington Township v. Schempp that "the reference to divinity in the revised pledge of allegiance ... may merely recognize the historical fact that our nation was believed to have been founded ‘under God.’”

Well, Brennan was also wrong, in this case, wrong in his analysis of the 1954-revised Pledge. The “under God” was inserted as part of the McCarthyist Second Red Scare, which of course saw all communists as godless. (Strange that Christian Red-hunters never read the second chapter of Acts to see Christian communists in action.)

Abbott then gets full of BS:
Neutrality is the aim. The First Amendment does not permit government to endorse religion, but neither can it exhibit hostility toward religion. It's a delicate balance, to be sure, but including the words “under God” in the Texas Pledge successfully and constitutionally walks that line.

If neutrality really were the option, state Rep. Debbie Riddle never would have proposed this change in the state Pledge, and schools would go back to the pre-1954 U.S. Pledge.

When Religious Right nutbars got upset about a Hindu prayer for Congress in the U.S. Capitol, we clearly saw that for them, “neutrality” means “Christian-only neutrality,” with an occasional “Judeo-“ appendage as a threadbare fig leaf.

Finally, although this is just a preliminary injunction, previous Supreme Court Pledge-loser Michael Newdow is right that the Crofts don’t have a chance; since Newdow’s time, the addition of Alito and Roberts to SCOTUS guarantees that.