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Back September 26th, 2004 Forward
dogemperor [userpic]
"Under No God But Their Own"


An Alternet article explains why making "Under God" a protected phrase in the Constitution is a serious mistake and could begin the death spiral of our country and constitution as we know it.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to send the Pledge Protection Act to the full House, which is likely to take it up today. The Act – a bill that has many cosponsors – would deprive all federal courts, even the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction to hear constitutional challenges to the "under God" Pledge of Allegiance. This is only the latest attempt by Congress to force a pluralist society into a one-size-fits-all set of beliefs.

This is a remarkable violation of the separation of powers and the Establishment Clause. If the Act were to become law - and if it were, itself, to be upheld as constitutional - only state courts would be able to hear constitutional challenges to the Pledge.


Constitutional Principles and Structure Are at Stake, and Are Being Betrayed

The Establishment Clause was motivated by the fear that Congress would oppress the American People in exactly the way Congress is now trying to do. It says that "Congress shall make no law establishing religion. . ." But by attempting to insulate the monotheistic "under God" Pledge from court review, in the Pledge Protection Act, that is exactly what Congress is trying to do. It's a one-God-fits-all formula that hearkens back to Britain under Queens Mary and Elizabeth, who practiced the same principle, and only differed on which religion received their imprimatur.

From their own experiences in Britain and Europe, the Framing Generation knew the baleful consequences of joining the power of a national government with religion. The colonists came here in the wake of the Reformation and the extreme religious turbulence that resulted when Protestants and Catholics jockeyed for power under the British monarchs. They knew, many of them firsthand, what happens when a centralized government becomes a partner with a particular religion.

This was why the Framing Generation instituted one of the most innovative aspects of the Constitution: a rule that denied any religious entity sovereign power, and thereby privatized religion. The result has been to make America a teeming, robust, and extraordinary marketplace in religion like the world has never seen.

The Framers also believed in the absolute freedom to believe whatever one wants - and therefore, they coupled the Establishment Clause with the Free Exercise Clause. They did not believe, of course, in an unfettered right to act, because actions can harm others, and the framing generation believed bad actions should be capable of being punished, regardless of the identity of the actor. But they believed religious practices ought to be left sacrosanct, as long as they stayed within the bounds of the duly enacted laws. They also believed in protecting, under the Constitution, a diversity of religious beliefs.

This is not a country that is based on any single religious vision - nor do we have a Constitution based on any single source, whether religious or secular. To the contrary, the Constitution was built on ideas taken from more than one Protestant theology, Roman and Greek government, and philosophers like Locke, Burke, and Hume. (The Framers also drew heavily on their experiences under the Articles of Confederation – when the country came very close to dissolving into 13 potentates, as opposed to a collection of states with common interests.)

Many of the Framers had rich classical educations - as did those with whom they corresponded. It is an insult to the Framers to reduce the sources from which they derived the Constitution to one aspect of some of their religious beliefs.

In sum, the House is not doing its homework if it believes that the government imposition of "under God" phrase reflects the views of the Framers. The country we have now is the one the Framers envisioned - one filled with religious believers of every stripe. It is an experiment they initiated that has had breathtaking success. Attempting to impose uniformity at this point through the "under God" Pledge betrays, rather than serves, the Framers' vision.

An Attempt to Destroy the Judiciary's Ability to Provide a Check on Congress

The Pledge Protection Act also betrays the Framers' vision in another way - it is a frontal attack on the valuable constitutional check provided by the federal judiciary.

The Framers, of course, believed in the absolute necessity of limiting power and pitting power against power so that no entity could get overweening power. Yet Congress is now attempting, with the Act, to deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction to check Congress's wayward ways – in an arena where Congress was specifically believed by the Framers to be dangerous. (Recall that phrase from the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, "Congress shall make no law.....)

Do the members of Congress genuinely think that 50 state supreme courts - with a host of disparate views - could possibly keep Congress in check? Or do they perhaps, believe that as members of Congress, they need no check? My money is on the latter, but either way, they are very wrong.

Read the rest of the article- it is chilling in its implications. The intent of the people trying to undermine our Constitution by passing this 'Pledge Protection Act' is twofold: they are attempting to establish a state religion, and are also attempting to curb the ability of the judiciary to stop this religious coup.


Back September 26th, 2004 Forward