March 25, 2004

One nation, divisible by patriotism

This article from Slate, written in 2002 when the Ninth Circuit court's decision on the "under God" portion of the Pledge of Allegiance caused a storm of controversy, sums up my feelings toward the issue rather well. It provides a detailed background (or, at least, a more detailed one than you get on CNN, et al.) about the political and social climate with respect to religion when the phrase was added, and illustrates that the point of adding it certainly was to promote religion, something I hear many people disclaiming in the debate on the current case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I think anyone who tries to make the case that the Founding Fathers didn't really mean that there was no place in government for religion should first read the second paragraph of the Slate article, then should take another look at the Bill of Rights. First Article, first words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

If people in the 50s weren't so afraid of being labeled "Red" or politicians weren't so afraid of being run out of Washington on a rail (or, in this case, a pew), maybe the right thing would have happened when the bill was first passed and it would have been declared unconstitutional. The Knights of Columbus and other organizations could, and can, say whatever they want at their meetings -- another bonus of the First Amendment. Congress enacting a bill inexorably linking God and the United States in a recital declaring one's allegiance to their country of citizenship, a country born from a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that expressly do not link them and expressly prohibit the legislative branch from doing so, is intrinsically contrary to the very tenets upon which the country was founded. If that's not unpatriotic, I don't what is.