Thursday, October 16, 2003

Capitalism and the Law: If the Christian Coalition is happy, it has to be bad

The Christian Coalition is pleased that the US Supreme Court has decided to hear the Pledge of Allegiance case and has said so in a press release.

The Christian Coalition of America applauds the Supreme Court today for allowing the "Pledge of Allegiance" case to be heard in the court. This comes after the infamously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco 16 months ago struck down the recitation of the "Pledge of Allegiance" because of the words "Under God". As a result of this tyrannical decision, tens of millions of children in the western States have been unable to recite the Pledge of Allegiance this year.

Roberta Combs, President of the Christian Coalition of America said, "This case is an example of a liberal court taking away the foundation of our Godly heritage upon which this great country was founded. I applaud the Supreme Court and trust that the justices will make a decision that will benefit the future of our land and restore our Godly principles. Anything less than a 9-0 rebuke of the lower federal court would be a slap in the face of the overwhelming majority of Americans (80-90 percent) who support school children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance."

Combs is wrong of course. The job of the 9th Circuit was to judge the constitutionality of the state requiring students to listen to a teacher-led recitation of the pledge, not take a poll of all Americans and act on the results. There is one question a judge ought to ask when deciding such a case: does the government act in question fit within the constitution as animated by the principle of individual rights. If you hold that individuals are philosophically sovereign, there is no reason to justify teacher-led recitations of the pledge in state schools that include mention of a deity.

The Christian Coalition’s very treatment of teacher-led recitations of the pledge as a venerable institution bolsters the argument that it ought not to be. Beyond the foolishness of leading youth in a pledge that they are not intellectually mature enough to understand, the text of the pledge is clearly an attempt to establish that God has dominion over the United Sates—that’s why the Christian Coalition seeks to fight for it. Yet in a free and secular society such as ours, no one has the right to put such a baseless claim into the law.

There will be a multitude of interest groups filing briefs with the Supreme Court on this case, including, without a doubt, the Christian Coalition. There also should be a brief submitted to the court by a coalition of reason, with the goal of firmly establishing the boundaries between the state and the people in the realm of ideas.

UPDATE: The American Legion has issued a press release today supporting teacher-led recitations of the pledge as well.

"The American Legion filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance at federal court in San Francisco. The American Legion is committed to take this fight all the way to the highest court in the land. Teachers leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance is as constitutional as "In God We Trust" stamped on our nation's currency and references to "God" in the oaths taken in our courts.

"But this case is bigger than the Pledge. What is really at stake here is the moral direction of the nation. The right of the people to declare their patriotism by voluntarily reciting the Pledge is but one battle. The right of the Boy Scouts of America to select its leaders consistent with its founding principles is another battle. The right of the people to protect the U.S. Flag from acts of physical desecration is a battle that The American Legion has been fighting since the Supreme Court in 1989 invalidated flag-protection laws in 48 states; a constitutional amendment approved by the House and soon to come to a vote in the Senate is the remedy."
I left the Legion over its support of anti-flag burning amendments. Too bad you can’t leave an organization twice.

The Legion is correct though in saying that the pledge case is about the moral direction of the nation. If the leaders of the Boy Scouts ought to be able to direct their membership policy to reflect their moral principles, a parent ought to be able to direct the ideas their children are exposed to reflect their moral principles as well.

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