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Achtung Bubba 07-04-2002 08:51 PM

So far the only thing that has happened is this: on June 27th, the U.S. Senate approved Senate Bill 2690, which did three things:

1) In a very interesting list of findings, it concluded that the June 26 decision on the part of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule the pledge constitutional was reached "erroneously."

2) It "reaffirmed the exact language" of the law that established the current form of the pledge.

3) It "reaffirmed the exact language" of the law that established the motto, "In God We Trust."

The bill was approved 99-0 (Republican Jesse Helms being absent due to illness). On June 27th, the bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it remains.

(It's not a bad sign that the bill is still in the committee: the House calendar states that there were to be no votes after 2 pm, June 28th - and the House has been on vacation since then. Votes resume this Monday evening.)

The committee is chaired by F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), who made this comment on June 26th about the 9th Circuit Court's decision:

“Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals treated the word ‘God’ as a poison pill. Rarely has any court - even the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit - shown such disdain for the will of the people, an Act of Congress, and our American traditions. What’s next, a court ruling taking ‘In God We Trust’ off of money?

“In truth, today’s ruling is the latest in a string of rulings by misguided courts misinterpreting the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause. In this case, children were not compelled to say the pledge and under West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, individuals cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We recognize the right of those who do not share the beliefs expressed in the Pledge not to recite the pledge, but this ruling treats religious speech as inherently evil. This is an attempt to remove religious speech from the public arena by those who disagree. In essence, it’s a heckler’s veto.

“Unfortunately, the continued obstruction by the Senate to appoint common-sense judges only ensures more rulings like today’s. I’m confident today’s ruling will end up as merely the latest in a long stream of misguided rulings from the Ninth Circuit. We in Congress will do whatever it takes to void this laughable ruling.”

Realistically, the bill will zip through the committee to the House floor. The House of Representatives will vote on it, and I'm fairly certain the bill will pass quite easily. Then, it's off to the White House where Bush will almost assuredly sign it into law. If history is any guide, the Supreme Court will uphold this law and overrule the 9th Circuit Court, if it comes to that.

(While I bet the bill passes with ease, I am willing to wager that at least a handful of extremists vote against it: specificially, Barbara Lee (D-CA), who opposed President Bush's war on terrorism AND congressional birthday greetings toward President Reagan. If she supports this, I will crap my pants.)

From the circuit court's side of things, they ordered a stay on the ruling, which means that it has not gone into effect, and they may rethink their decision before it goes to the Supreme Court.

At any rate, their decision only affected the West Coast; now that it has been stayed, it is still legal for any American public school teacher to lead his class in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

I am planning to update the progress of the decision and the Senate Bill as events unfold...

...to gloat, if for no other reason. :p

As for the reasons some Christians agree with the 9th Circuit Court's decision, I will not venture a guess. Nor can I say with any certainty that their agreement is a personal thing or how they actually interpret the Constitution.

U2002revolution! 07-05-2002 12:13 AM

thanks very much for answering my questions Bubba!

Achtung Bubba 07-07-2002 11:49 PM

There's an interesting article from Canada's National Post about the First Amendment debacle. While I generally try to avoid posting full articles, I'm not sure how permanent the link is.

Thus, the full article (with the three most pertinent paragraphs in bold):


America should celebrate its independence

Mark Steyn
National Post

I forget who it was who said, "What's the difference between Dominion Day and the Fourth of July? About 48 hours." President Reagan, addressing Parliament in 1987, attributed it to "a Canadian writer" and endorsed its sentiment -- that the dates may be different but the values we celebrate are the same. Tom Ridge, America's Director of Homeland Security, said as much the other day. If it were ever true, it isn't now. You only have to listen to a couple of minutes of any CBC or BBC current affairs show or glance at the front pages of any Continental newspaper to realize that America is the Western world's odd man out, and has been increasingly since September 11th.

And I couldn't be happier about it. I'm delighted the United States is not like Belgium or even New Zealand, and Belgians and New Zealanders should be grateful, too, if they think about it for a minute. Had the U.S. elected Helmut Schmidt or Pierre Trudeau, you can pretty much guess how the Cold War would have turned out. The same stakes are at play now. So I would urge Americans, as they celebrate this Independence Day, to celebrate also their independence -- not just from George III but from the rest of what passes for the civilized world.

There are many examples of American difference, but let's start with the Pledge of Allegiance, which last week was struck down by a Federal court in one of the loopier corners of California as "unconstitutional." By this, they mean that the words "under God" violates the separation of church and state. Whether or not a nation should have a Pledge of Allegiance and whether or not that pledge should include the words "under God" are certainly open to discussion. But they're nothing to do with the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, whose meaning to anyone apart from mischievous atheists and history-disdaining dopes is perfectly clear.

The founders of the American republic were a canny bunch: they kept most of their constitutional inheritance from Britain, but with a significant exception. They did not want President Washington to be also Supreme Governor of the Church of America, as today the Queen of England is also Supreme Governor of the Church of England. They did not want an Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the Senate and legislating on the people's affairs, as today the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords and make laws for British Catholics, Muslims and atheists. They did not want a Federal government appointing the Bishop of Des Moines, as today Tony Blair appoints the bishops of the Church of England. They did not want an American to be disqualified from becoming head of state because of religion, in the way that 20 years ago Prince Michael of Kent was obliged to renounce his right of succession to the throne of Britain (and Canada: an "established church" has a long reach) because he wished to marry a Catholic.

The founders were men of God: they just didn't think the government should be in the business of approving and licensing one particular denomination over all others. Their view prevailed so successfully that two centuries on the very idea seems so nutty and incredible to Americans that Establishment Clause fetishists have nothing to do but sit around plotting how to get the Third Grade Christmas concert to ban Frosty The Snowman. If the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional for including the words "under God," then so is the city where the court sat in judgment -- San Francisco: How can you have a government jurisdiction named after a saint? Surely one's property tax bill is thus equally unconstitutional?

No doubt some exhibitionist poltroon in the Bay Area is ready and willing to make that case. The rest of us might more usefully look at the broader impact of disestablishment. Today the United States is the last religious country in the western world, the last in which a majority of the population are practising believers. By contrast, in all the jurisdictions where one church was formally or informally tied to the state -- England, Ireland, France, Spain, Quebec, you name it -- religious observance has withered away to statistically insignificant numbers.

"When men cease to believe in God," said G. K. Chesterton, "they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything!" The anything most of the Western world's non-believers believe in is government: the age of church-and-state has been superseded by the era of state-as-church. In Europe, they're happy to have cast off the supposed stultifying oppressiveness of religion for a world in which the EU regulates every aspect of life from "xenophobia" to the curvature of bananas. The fact that the most religious nation in the West is also the most powerful militarily, economically and culturally may be sheerest coincidence, so let's just say that separating church from state wound up strengthening the vitality of religion in America.

That's what makes the Establishment Clause an early declaration of the self-restraint of U.S. government. After all, if the government gets to pick the bishops, it's a safe bet they'll get to pick everyone else, too -- as Mr. Blair does, and M. Chrétien, too. Out in Alberta at last week's G8 summit, there was a striking difference between Mr. Bush and his chums as they batted around how many gazillions of dollars to lavish on Africa: if Chrétien or Schroeder or Chirac says X billion, X billion it is; but President Bush can only give what Congress approves. Kofi Annan, having endured eight years of meaningless promises from Bill Clinton at these international gabfests, went so far as to express his impatience at the way these rip-roaring schemes by the global elite wind up getting stalled because of the votes of obscure Senators from Missouri and North Dakota. M. Chrétien is so exquisitely imperial a Prime Minister he thought nothing of tying explicitly the money earmarked for Africa to his own continuation in office, but, alas for the convenience of Secretary-General Annan, America is not a one-man state.

That's where the EU, in their haste to line up at the Eurinals and spray their contempt over Bush, are missing the point. Who is this arrogant cowboy, they sneer, to tell the Palestinians whom they can vote for. Actually, that's not what Bush said. The guys who tell people who they can vote for are the Europeans. Only a couple weeks back, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder told the French to vote for Chirac. In February, the Belgian Foreign Minister threatened sanctions against Italy if they voted for Umberto Bossi's Northern League. When Austria proved less pliable and admitted duly elected members of Joerg Haider's Freedom Party to the coalition government, the EU did, indeed, impose sanctions.

But to suggest to Palestinians that things might go better if they elected a non-terrorist leadership is apparently unacceptable. Arafat has far more blood on his hand than Bossi, Haider, Jean-Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider put together and multiplied a thousandfold, but he's the West's guy: they can talk to him, strongman to strongman, Jacques to Yasser. Suddenly Bush comes along and says not that he wants a non-Yasser President but that he'd like a new constitution, separation of powers, an autonomous legislature, independent municipal institutions. Where does that sound like? Britain, where Tony Blair can simply replace one house of the legislature with another more to his liking? Canada, where municipalities are abolished by order of the Ontario and Quebec governments? No, it sounds like he wants a U.S. Constitution for Palestine, where President Yasser Clinton and Vice-President Mohammed al-Gore get hamstrung by Senator Ahmed Helms and Senator Walid Thurmond, and, either way, it makes no difference to the residents of high-tax Ramallah or no-tax Jenin. Is Bush just winding up the Kofi set? Hard to say. But you can understand why the EU recoils from such a vision: If separation of powers were to catch on in Palestine, who's to say it mightn't spread to the Continent?

There's a famous Fleet Street headline often cited as an example of British isolationism: "Fog In Channel, Continent Cut Off." But the odd man out isn't necessarily the guy in the wrong. On matters such as the role of the state, concentration of power, and the usefulness of international institutions, I'll bet on the Americans: There's a fog in the Atlantic, but it's Europe that's cut off.

© Copyright 2002 National Post

It brings up a few interesting questions, which I'd like to pose now:

First, if the current form of the pledge is unacceptable, surely the European nations are in much, much worse shape in terms of church-state separation. Where's the outrage here?

Second, aren't the names of American cities equally unconstitutional?

- Providence, RI
- Saint Louis, MO
- San Antonio, TX
- Corpus Christi, TX
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Jose, CA
- San Francisco, CA

Third, why even stop at cities? After all, so much of our civilization pays homage to some religion or another:

- We observe weekends because of the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) and the Christian's Sabbath (Sunday).

- Some days of the week are named after Norse gods: Thursday came from "Thor's Day."

- Some months are named after Roman gods: March came from Mars, July from Julius Caesar (who was worshiped as a god), etc.

- The planets are named after Roman gods (Mars, Venus, etc.)

- And Christmas is a federally recognized holiday.

speedracer 07-08-2002 07:58 PM


Originally posted by Achtung Bubba

This is an attempt to remove religious speech from the public arena by those who disagree. In essence, it’s a heckler’s veto.


Achtung Bubba 07-18-2002 01:05 PM

As a brief update, I just called the House Judiciary Committee (God bless our political freedoms!), and Senate Bill 2690 is apparently still in that committee.

If/when it is sent to the House floor, I'll be sure to let everyone know.

KingPin 07-18-2002 03:33 PM


Originally posted by Achtung Bubba

But let's say that the average American thinks of the Judeo-Christian Jehovah - the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).
If the government was only offering the "bare-bones" essentials as their concept of God (and I believe that's what it is doing), what does it matter if the average American adds to that image?

Um, technically, the Judeo-Christian God ceases to be that, once you mention any sense of a trinity involving Jesus.

Since the Jews don't believe that Jesus was God or the Son of God, they're probably not going to say that Jehovah and the triune God are the same thing.

Achtung Bubba 07-18-2002 05:10 PM

Certainly, from the perspective of many Jews (thoughs who have followed Jesus - some have), Jesus was not God / the Son of God.

So, the Jews believe that God of Abraham had nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

BUT Christians believe that Jesus IS the Son of the God of Abraham. This isn't just patronizing Judaism (the way Islam patronizes Christianity, saying that Jesus was merely a prophet); it is a full embracing of Judaism, the belief that Christ fulfills the law of Moses and the prophecy of the Isaiah and others.

And, either way, Judaism alone does not rule out the Trinity; one could say that Jesus wasn't the Messiah but still believe that the true Messiah would be an incarnation of God Himself.

Further, the Old Testament does speak about the Holy Spirit. It could be said that the Bible suggests a trinity as early as Genesis, chapter 1 verse 2.

Ultimately, this is nit-picking that misses the entire point of what I was saying. I DO see your point, but I'm not necessarily off-base, either, and the entire argument is a digression.

KingPin 07-18-2002 05:25 PM

Sorry man, didn't mean to digress or cause any trouble in the thread. I just didn't think that the point "the average American thinks of the Judeo-Christian Jehovah - the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). " was valid. Wasn't nit-picking, I was just trying to clarify something.

Especially considering the average American probably has no clue what a triune God is, let alone who's part of it.

Whatever, sorry.

Achtung Bubba 07-18-2002 06:57 PM

I wasn't asserting what the average American thinks, just putting out a hypothetical:

IF the typical American thinks of a VERY specific idea of God when reciting the Pledge (including its vague notion of God), it STILL doesn't make the Pledge unconstitutional.

Either way, no need to apologize. :)

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