The House legislation to bar federal courts from hearing constitutional challenges to “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is a bad idea. Whether its goal is to solidify federal recognition of the Christian God as ruler of America or to allow state and local courts to better reflect the supposed will of the people to force everyone to worship the same, nothing good can happen if the Senate passes its version. I suspect the Senate will choose to be the chamber where bad bills go to die, so I’m not particularly worried.
Instead, it’s worth highlighting two quotes from the debate. First:
“We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage,” said Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. “It surrounds us. It cries out for our country to honor God.”
Actually, our history cries out for religious tolerance and governmental indifference. Many of the first settlers of the New World fled religious oppression. That some of them wished to impose their own oppression here is worth noting, specifically because it failed. As evidence see the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is our true spiritual heritage. But, if this debate is about not rewriting history, how to explain this:
- 1892 to 1923: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
- 1923 to 1954: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
- 1954 to Present: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
It seems history can be rewritten. All Rep. Wamp wants is for us not to rewrite the historical rewrite. Wouldn’t honesty be a part of the Family Values Tour 2006, or whatever Republicans are calling this wrecking ball publicity stunt?
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who sponsored the measure, said that denying a child the right to recite the pledge was a form of censorship. “We believe that there is a God who gives basic rights to all people and it is the job of the government to protect those rights.”
I believe that there is a Constitution which gives basic rights to each person and it is the job of the government to protect those rights. The facts support my position. The current state of civil liberties protections in America, as exhibited by the House and Senate, indicates that many of our leaders in Congress share Rep. Akin’s misconceptions. Instead, Rep. Akin holds a view of our government which allows him to enforce laws not supported by the Constitution, and to deny rights that conflict with what he believes people should do. Denying a child the ability to say the Pledge of Allegiance, with its recent addition of “under God”, may be censorship, but I wonder what he would call forcing a child to say something he doesn’t believe? Perhaps the honorable gentleman from Missouri thinks every child can’t wait to recite “under God,” but it’s also possible that some children notice the inherent flaw in American spiritual strength that forced religious patriotism represents.