March 17, 2010

Under God and In God We Trust: Atheists Are Not Real Americans

cross-flag.jpgAtheists living in the United States know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. We are surrounded by reminders of our outsider status, and we should not be surprised to find that this can exert a psychological toll upon us. Admittedly, I know this feeling much better now that I'm living in Mississippi, but I suspect that it would be experienced to a lesser degree nearly anywhere.

One Nation Under God

In a serious blow to reason, common sense, and the intent of America's founders, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the 1954 "under god" addition to the Pledge of Allegiance is perfectly legal and does not violate the Establishment Clause. You can find the decision here (.pdf).

While acknowledging that the "under god" phrase has religious significance, Judge Carlos Bea's majority opinion asserts that their meaning is largely patriotic and not religious. Moreover, the addition of this phrase does not "convert the pledge into a prayer." Rather, it serves as "a recognition of our founders' political philosophy that a power greater than the government gives the people their inalienable rights."
Thus, the pledge is an endorsement of our form of government, not of religion or any particular sect.
Um...yeah, and when one defines this "power" as some sort of god, we're talking about religion.

In the 2-1 ruling, the purpose of adding "under god" in 1954 was characterized as follows:
Congress’ ostensible and predominant purpose was to inspire patriotism.
Why can't it be both? Even if we agree that part of the intent was to inspire patriotism, the same goal could have been accomplished via secular language. Clearly, Congress' intent was both patriotic and religious. There is simply no way that the promotion of religion was not involved.

In God We Trust

ingodwetrust.jpgThe court also ruled 3-0 that the national motto which appears on U.S. currency, "In God We Trust," is not religious but ceremonial and patriotic. In fact, they went so far as to claim that it "has nothing whatsover to do with the establishment of religion." Unbelievable!

I guess they have to make such a claim if they've already decided that they are not going to demand the removal of the phrase because they fear the political storm that would certainly ensue.

What's Next?

Plaintiff Michael Newdow is now likely to request a rehearing of the case and may consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if that request is denied. Will he succeed this time? I don't know, but this is too important to abandon. Here is how Newdow phrased the meaning of the decision:
To be a real American, you believe in God, and the judiciary unfortunately sometimes can't be trusted to uphold our constitutional rights when you're a disenfranchised minority.
H/T to Friendly Atheist

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