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Supreme Court ducks pledge question.
June 14, 2004 11:45 AM   Subscribe

The Supreme Court ruled today that Michael Newdow did not have standing to sue on behalf of his daughter in challenging the recitation of the pledge in a public school classroom in California.
posted by monju_bosatsu (81 comments total)

 
Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, delivered the opinion of the court, stating that "it is improper for the federal courts to entertain a claim by a plaintiff whose standing to sue is founded on family law rights that are in dispute when prosecution of the lawsuit may have an adverse effect on the person who is the source of the plaintiff's claimed standing," and that "Newdow lacks prudential standing to bring this suit in federal court."

The Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist concurred in the judgment but dissented on the standing issues, writing that the Court should hold the Pledge constitutional. Rehnquist stated that "[t]o give the parent of such a child a sort of 'heckler's veto' over a patriotic ceremony willingly participated in by other students, simply because the Pledge of Allegiance contains the descriptive phrase 'under God,' is an unwarranted extension of the Establishment Clause." Justices O'Connor and Thomas agreed with the Chief Justice, each writing separately to lay out their own reasoning.

Considering that the decision was made on standing grounds, this case is not nearly as important to first Amendment law as it could be. However, three Justices have shown their hands, indicating they would find the pledge constitutional.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:47 AM on June 14, 2004


Smart move on the justices' part. This issue has very little real bearing on American life and constitutional law--it's basically a triviality. A definitive decision would have done little but to inflame passions, particularly in an election year. The court knows better than to stick its neck out for petty crap like this, so long as it can avoid doing so.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:53 AM on June 14, 2004


Fittingly enough today is also the 50 year anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower inserting the phrase in the first place:

"From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." (Please ignore that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..." it's not really applicable, since I'm the president...)
posted by togdon at 11:53 AM on June 14, 2004


I really fail to see the problem with the word "God" in the pledge. It's secular and frankly not that big of a deal.

Besides, this case wasn't even close to a real test.
posted by esch at 11:54 AM on June 14, 2004


Sandra Banning, the child's mother, then filed a motion to intervene or dismiss, declaring... that, as her daughter's sole legal custodian, she felt it was not in the child's interest to be a party to Newdow's suit.

This line made me wince. I wonder if this man really thought about what it would mean to his daughter to be a part of this. He certainly never cleared it with her mother, whom it would also affect. Such a thing ought to be a family decision.
posted by orange swan at 11:58 AM on June 14, 2004


How is "god" secular? Clearly atheists, agnostics, and polytheists don't believe in a singular god.
posted by skallas at 11:58 AM on June 14, 2004


Eh, the SCOTUS can always weasel out of hearing a case that they don't want to rule on, or on which they feel that the nation isn't prepared for the ruling that they would likely issue. In this case, though, they have bought themselves very little time, indeed. After all, the conditions of this case are easily replicated, and it strikes me as quite likely that somebody will do so shortly, and they'll find this question on their collective lap once again in a year or two.


I really fail to see the problem with the word "God" in the pledge. It's secular and frankly not that big of a deal.

Um. No. God is, by definition, not secular.
posted by waldo at 12:00 PM on June 14, 2004


Eh, the SCOTUS can always weasel out of hearing a case that they don't want to rule on, or on which they feel that the nation isn't prepared for the ruling that they would likely issue.

If they had wanted to do that, they would have refused to hear the case at all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:02 PM on June 14, 2004


define God.
posted by quonsar at 12:03 PM on June 14, 2004


How does relating to a God make something secular??

on preview, others have asked this question already. apart from the "a".
posted by knapah at 12:05 PM on June 14, 2004


I really fail to see the problem with the word "God" in the pledge. It's secular

You are kidding, right? Right?

IMHO this sounds rather like a matter for the legislature to me. I know that you Americans don't have the same reliance upon the notion of justiciability in judicial review but this doesn’t smell like a matter which should be decided in a courtroom.
posted by dmt at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2004


Damn. Or, I guess I should say, "GOD damn."

Certainly far, far down the list of important issues, but it's of at least symbolic importance. That the US's pledge contains both "under God" and "indivisible," let alone next to each other, reeks of irony. The pledge says to schoolchildren, "Let's pretend all of those non-Christians (or, possibly, non-Jews) don't exist or aren't Americans."
posted by callmejay at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2004


Found the ruling outcome on this odd, until I thought about a friend in her current child custody case. Wonder how this will play out in that case since this may set precedence that he is stepping outside his custodial boundaries?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2004


I really fail to see the problem with the word "God" in the pledge. It's secular and frankly not that big of a deal.

absofucking ridiculous. the concept "God" will never be secular, and the fact that you think it is shows how brainwashed people are about the subject.

and it might seem trivial to us, but that's b/c we don't have to recite it every single fucking day.

the inclusion of the word "God" in the national pledge is a mockery of one of the most fundamental principles this country *should* stand for. to think otherwise is either delusional or a case of "shamelessly self-interested appeasement" i.e. don't get the religious folks pissed off so we have a better chance to beat Bush in November.

i don't understand why any of the lower courts didn't make the same distinction about "sole legal custody" for Banning.

Scalia already recused himself from the case b/c of "prior comments" so it would have split 4-4 anyway, like the big fat cowards they are. i guess this way saves more face.

on preview: a definition of God. there are lots, obviously, but it's important to note the word isn't used at all by most Buddhists. to include "God" in the pledge is certainly a devaluation of that religion and those who practice it.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:13 PM on June 14, 2004


IANAL, but the way the ruling was handed down seems to me an open invitation for someone else, without all the thorny child custody issues, to bring the same issue to their doorstep. Any resident legal scholars care to elaborate?
posted by mkultra at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2004


As a devoit athiest, I find it very objectionable that this phrase is not only in the pledge, but was ADDED to it. I'm going to be taking a job as a public school teacher in September and was kind of hoping (though not expecting) that that horrific clause would be stricken by the first day of school, but I guess I'm SOL.

Incidentally, there are no references to equality in the pledge of allegiance because Francis Bellamy did not want to cause controversy with respect to the rights of women and African Americans.
posted by alphanerd at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2004


This issue has very little real bearing on American life and constitutional law--it's basically a triviality.

Yeah, it's not like their job is make decisions based on principle.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2004


alphanerd, you won't have to lead your class in the Pledge every day, will you? Is that stipulated in your contract or terms of employment or some such?
posted by davidmsc at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2004


FWIW, there is a lot of Christian opposition to making people recite the pledge in school.

If the pledge's "under God" is an expression of Christianity, it's obviously unconstitutional. The people who argue that this is nothing specifically Christian, just "ceremonial deism" and essentially secular, may be right--but if they are, I don't want it. (And if they're wrong, I don't want it either). If a belief in God is so pro forma and meaningless that you think there's no problem in making young children who may have no religious belief at all recite it...that's certainly not the religion I follow. I am not a ceremonial deist.
posted by Jeanne at 12:24 PM on June 14, 2004


I wonder if this man really thought about what it would mean to his daughter to be a part of this.

orangeswan, do you hold her mom to the same standard? do you think she "really thought about what it would mean to her daughter" to make her join a Calvary Chapel church? do you think her mom cares that her daughter might now be terrified that her Jewish friends at school will burn in hell for all eternity? i'd doubt it.

from what i understand, Newdow discussed the issue with Banning and she wanted absolutely no part of it. in fact, i wouldn't be surprised if the decision to award Banning sole legal custody (in Feb. 2002) was based on Newdow's lawsuit (started in 2000).

it's a crazy story, but the scotus decision is a heaping pile of chickenshit.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:24 PM on June 14, 2004


alphanerd - Why don't you just concentrate on teaching the kids. Ok?
posted by Witty at 12:24 PM on June 14, 2004


alphanerd - Why don't you just concentrate on teaching the kids. Ok?

Yes, alphanerd, how dare you have an opinion on the matter. Just keep turning out good little sheep and we'll all be happy.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:34 PM on June 14, 2004


Alphanerd - Just make sure you make them say "under Allah" instead of "under God", since so many people argue that it's just meaningless formalism.
posted by bshort at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2004


Eh, the SCOTUS can always weasel out of hearing a case that they don't want to rule on

There's a tenet of constitutional law that says the Supreme Court attempts to resolve a case on other (lesser) grounds before deciding a constitutional question. And, as DevilsAdvocate notes, the Court didn't have to take the case at all. No "weaseling" here. Oh, and John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion, is the most liberal judge on the Court.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:41 PM on June 14, 2004


davidmsc: I don't know whether or not I will have to say it every day. I know I had to say it every day when I was in high school but I'm aware that a lot of schools do not say it daily. I just have tremendous problems with it in principle.

Witty: We can discuss my concerns about teaching the kids in a thread that happens to be on that topic, although I do have issues with the fact that the pledge is educationally vacuous, whereas having children memorize and understand the Bill of Rights or the Constitution over the course of their 13 years in public school would be of tremendous educational value, and would promote a much better conception of patriotism.
posted by alphanerd at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2004


They're weasels on the court, and it's astounding that custody only now is an issue. My parents didn't have to say "under God," and this cold-war, anti-commie relic should be gone, so that the next generations don't have to say it either.
posted by amberglow at 12:45 PM on June 14, 2004


A call has ALREADY gone out for new litigants to work directly with Michael Newdow. I received this less than a half-hour ago from The-Brights newsletter:

U.S. Brights with young children in public school:

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that Newdow has no standing (the Court has skirted constitutional issues and left the situation open for another complainant to bring a case). The prior 9th Circuit decision is nullified and the pledge remains as it is. In short, this decision leaves untouched the practice while sidestepping the broader question of the separation of church and state.

Those who agree with the Newdow complaint are looking toward developing a new case along the same lines as Mike’s case.

NEEDED: A family of Brights -- the parents are bringing up children free of supernatural. The children are in a US public school that imposes the pledge on the its students. If you are that family, we would like to explore with you stepping forward and being litigants in the next court challenge.

Although we wrote an amicus brief for Michael’s case, we have no expertise in law. Brights Central will put you in touch with the appropriate parties to fully explain responsibilities, challenges, and what you can expect to experience before, during, and after a court decision.

To respond to this request requires a strong commitment to remove the words “under God” from the pledge. It will require time and a mental ability to ward off heavy criticism from many quarters. The most serious will likely be that you are “using your child” to advance your own cause.

If your offer is considered the “best case,” then you will be working directly with Michael Newdow. It will not impose a financial burden. Email your interest and appropriate contact information (name, phone and address) with the subject line: PLEDGE FAMILY

If your situation precludes your entry into such a case, then please follow the citizen suggestions in the prior Brighten Op(portunity) that you will “ride herd” on your representatives and public officials.

posted by urlnotfound at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2004


that's b/c we don't have to recite it every single fucking day

Neither does she. That's old, settled case law, and the "requirement" in question allows for abstention.

The basis of the suit wasn't that she was being made to say it. It was that others saying it was unconstitutional.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:58 PM on June 14, 2004


mr grimm, I see the religious education of their child as a separate issue. The father is teaching the girl that there isn't a God, the mother is saying that there is one. It's an unfortunate situation for the little girl (because somehow I don't see either of them as being too respectful of the other's belief or presenting it as a purely personal choice that she can make on her own without it being an issue of loyalty), but she will have to make up her own mind on the matter as we all must, and I do see both parents as being within their rights.

But to drag your child and the mother of your child through a court battle with its attendant publicity against their will is a different matter. Wasn't there some way Newdow could have brought this to court without involving his daughter?
posted by orange swan at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2004


I had to say the pledge when I was in school. As an atheist, the lesson I took from that experience was that my country expected me to lie when taking pledges.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2004


Oddly enough, I'm glad they (basically) put this aside. By not ruling on the issue at hand (while giving strong indications where many of them would rule), they've left it open to a stronger case than Newdow's. He did an impressive job considering his resources/education, scoring a lot of good points before the justices, but he didn't overwhelm them, which is what it will take to change this. Those who want to go back to the original wording have a great opportunity to learn from his attempt, and prepare an airtight case when the opportunity arises again. Had they made a ruling on the issue itself, there would be little chance that opportunity would ever come up again.

As well, there's the election angle. Had they ruled for Newdow, that would have been an enormous bit of ammo in Bush's fundamentalist arsenal. Instead, Bush can't rile up rightwing religious voters.

So they get another kick at the can, time to prepare for it, and a better shot at ousting Bush in the mean time. This was a battle that, if won, could have lost the war.

(on preview: orangeswan, had Newdow not involved his daughter in this, he would have had even less of a reason. No daughter, no case, period.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:15 PM on June 14, 2004


The Supreme Court has an excellent sense of when it's approaching the abyss, and when it still has room to work.

Affirming Newdow would been the step too far. The Supreme Court last backed away in the mid-1970s, when, after 15 years of liberalization, it threw the brakes on, allowing the death penalty to be reinstated and halting the leftward march of racial correction (mainly in the form of the restrictive Bakke decision and limiting school and housing desegregation to within municipalities with demonstrated histories of racial issues).

Those who interpret this decision as an invitation to bring back the matter, with a better plaintiff, are probably wrong. The Court found an excuse to say softly, but say nevertheless, what it intended to say: ceremonial deism may remain so long as the majority wills it.
posted by MattD at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2004


I agree this needed a stronger case than Newdow's. Like orange swan I see here someone who's not really clued in to his daughter's best interests - at least not seeming to care about the difficulties his crusade might make on her life. I'd read some of the info before, but from the article cited by mrgrimm:

"Her daughter -- whose name has not been made public in connection with the case -- was born in Sacramento in 1994 at a time when, as Banning puts it, "I was not walking with the Lord." She is referring to the fact that she and Newdow never married. She offers no other details, but mentions offhandedly that Newdow has accused her of raping him in the sexual encounter that resulted in the birth of their daughter. She dismisses the allegation with a wan smile.

It turns out that Newdow has made the rape charge throughout the custody litigation, and he called it "date rape" in his Halloween interview. "I didn't love her, and I told her that," he says. The girl was conceived during a camping trip at Yosemite, Newdow says.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Mize, in his latest oral ruling in the custody case on Sept. 11, made short shrift of what he described as Newdow's "incredibly disingenuous" rape claim. "If she wanted to have sex with you and you didn't want it," the judge admonished Newdow, "you would have easily been able to say, 'I'm sorry, I'm out of here. Goodbye.' But you didn't do that.""


and

""I have the right to see that my daughter is not indoctrinated," he says. "Every day in school, by reciting the Pledge, they are telling my daughter that her father is wrong and her mother is right.""

Newdow is an odd bird. I'm not sure how much he cares about his daughter - it seems he cares more about being right and legally besting the mother. It seems there should be better cases than his to challenge this - but then, you have to find people willing to put up the money and spend the time.
posted by batgrlHG at 1:33 PM on June 14, 2004


"...one nation under God/Satan/the sky (choose one), indivisible..."

There, that fixes it.
posted by lathrop at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2004


the lesson I took from that experience was that my country expected me to lie when taking pledges...

Best.
Lesson.
Ever.
posted by wendell at 1:39 PM on June 14, 2004


Just as long as the nation is still invisible and protected by Superman's creed. I mean those were always the most relevant parts of the pledge to me when I was 8.

Kids shouldn't be saying the pledge anyway -- at least not until they're old enough to understand all of the words (much less all of the context) what they're pledging, and then it should be one thousand percent voluntary.
posted by willnot at 1:40 PM on June 14, 2004


Yeah, willnot: I totally though we had an invisible nation until I was in like junior high (maybe later).
posted by mr_roboto at 1:50 PM on June 14, 2004


For all the under God supporters, if it were "under Allah", still no problem, right?
posted by shepd at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2004


Kids shouldn't be saying the pledge anyway -- at least not until they're old enough to understand all of the words (much less all of the context) what they're pledging

There are very few adults who know what distinguishes a republic from other forms of government.
posted by alphanerd at 1:58 PM on June 14, 2004


Willnot is right on.

Forget "under God". When I was reciting the pledge in grade school, I had no idea what half the words were referring to. "Indivisible"? I was sure they meant "invisible". Hell, I thought "pledjaleejince" was a verb.
posted by jpoulos at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2004


thanx for making me laugh willnot.

seriously. i wouldn't mind reciting that pledge.
posted by Stynxno at 2:00 PM on June 14, 2004


It's quite possible to believe that "under God" is a meaningless formalism while holding that "under Allah," "under Jehovah," and "under Christ" are not.

It's the very vagueness of "God" that robs it of meaning.
posted by tyllwin at 2:13 PM on June 14, 2004


For all the under God supporters, if it were "under Allah", still no problem, right?

Not the same.
posted by Witty at 2:13 PM on June 14, 2004


Exactly the same. One imaginary friend or the other, what's the difference?
posted by majcher at 2:20 PM on June 14, 2004


how about "one nation under Bob"?

or a new 'tree hugger' slogan "Ratify Kyoto or it'll be one nation under water!"...? just doesn't have that ring to it, does it?
posted by knapah at 2:21 PM on June 14, 2004


It's the very vagueness of "God" that robs it of meaning.

Not *all* meaning. It just robs it of a specific "my God is better than your god" meaning. The "my God is better than your no god" meaning remains loud and clear.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:33 PM on June 14, 2004


I think the idea of a pledge of allegiance is so retarded to begin with that I don't think I'm really capable of debating the finer points of it, i.e. which words should be in it or not. I don't think there's anything about his country a child should be asked to say daily. Smells like brain washing.

I think teaching the constitution and bill of rights one year at a time is a superb idea. Hell, you do have like 12 or 13 years. Start in 3rd grade or something and do a couple amendments a year. For that matter the way history is taught in this country is bizarre. How many damn times did I take the exact same american history course? But that's another story.

Want to hear some funny misheard god lyrics? A friend of a friend of a friend of mine was raised atheist, and relatively ignorant of christianity. When he heard all the kids at school talking about christianity he thought they were saying "little lord cheeses" so he went home and told his mom that there was this great cheese that everyone said they had to try. Bwahahaha!
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:41 PM on June 14, 2004


I think Jeanne's comment makes the most sens to me-- for real Christians, the deist God of the pledge (and, perhaps of the Founding Fathers) is not good enough unless it means Christian God, and if it does, then it's clearly unconstitutional.
posted by chaz at 2:45 PM on June 14, 2004


(Aside: I remember when I thought it was "one nation invisible" too.
And I do love the term Mondegreen - though I'm not sure if it just applies to song lyrics or could cover the pledge:
Mondegreens can be found in every area of the spoken word, from the record-buyer who asks for a copy the Queen single "Bohemian Rap City" to the schoolchild who is convinced that the Pledge of Allegiance begins "I led the pigeons to the flag.")

posted by batgrlHG at 2:51 PM on June 14, 2004


If they had wanted to do that, they would have refused to hear the case at all.

True, except that it would have had the effect of condoning the Ninth Circuit's decision in Newdow's favor. If it had denied cert, the circuit court would have removed the stay it had placed on its holding, and 11 states and territories would have been forced to yank the Under God.

And it would have merely delayed the inevitable. There is a case in Virginia moving up through the system at the moment. The conservative Fourth Circuit will undoubtedly hold that the Pledge stays as is. If the Supreme Court had denied cert in the Newdow case, there would have been a circuit split that the Court would probably need to resolve.

But having knocked back the Ninth Circuit challenge on procedural grounds, there is now no compelling reason for the Supreme Court to grant cert to hear the impending Fourth Circuit decision. When the Pennsylvania case makes it to the Third Circuit, they are likely to use the Fourth Circuit's holding as persuasive authority. The Colorado case will go to the Tenth Circuit, which is likely to do the same. The result is a patchwork of circuit court decisions, all alike, which has the effect of creating a national judicial consensus absent Supreme Court involvement.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:57 PM on June 14, 2004


majcher - Well, if that's the comparison he was trying to make, then I agree. Hell, you could put the tooth fairy in there and it would work. But I don't think that's what he was trying to say when he made that comment.
posted by Witty at 2:58 PM on June 14, 2004


My wife thinks that the AC/DC song says "Dirty Deeds, Thunderchiefs"
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:03 PM on June 14, 2004


Are we still pretending that anything these 9 old people say has any legitimacy to it?
posted by rushmc at 3:43 PM on June 14, 2004


Kids shouldn't be saying the pledge anyway -- at least not until they're old enough to understand all of the words (much less all of the context) what they're pledging

hear, hear. hopefully this "under God" brouhaha can kill the pledge completely. it's kinda weird to make students take an oath to the country every day (yes, the same country that educates them for "free").
posted by mrgrimm at 3:50 PM on June 14, 2004


The preamble to the US Constitution states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

God didn't ordain the constitution, God's favorite priest didn't ordain the constitution, and God's direct descendant didn't ordain the constitution. The People of the United States ordained and established their constitution.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:05 PM on June 14, 2004


Kwantsar, I hear ya. Unfortunately the preamble is sadly underused as constitutional authority.
posted by PrinceValium at 4:09 PM on June 14, 2004


True, except that it would have had the effect of condoning the Ninth Circuit's decision in Newdow's favor.

I can't help but think that Rhenquist went along with this since Scalia had recused himself. I suspect, had Scalia been ruling as well, that there would have been a 5-4 reversal of the 9th. This technical reversal was the best he could do -- a 4-4 tie would leave the 9th's ruling as precedent.
posted by eriko at 4:13 PM on June 14, 2004


Blah, blah, blah.

s/secular/non-denominational/
posted by esch at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2004


The high court wasn't chicken to duck the pledge case.
posted by homunculus at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2004


Rehnquist stated that "[t]o give the parent of such a child a sort of 'heckler's veto' over a patriotic ceremony willingly participated in by other students, simply because the Pledge of Allegiance contains the descriptive phrase 'under God,' is an unwarranted extension of the Establishment Clause."

I'm amazed that no one else picked up on this -- per Monju's post -- where he says that kids "willingly" participate in a "patriotic ceremony".....blah blah blah....

I mean, isn't the "willingness" of the "patriotic ceremony" participant precisely the issue here? FWIW, "under God" was added during the 50's red scare (the whole McCarthy communist witch hunt deal) so, like the confederate flag issue, it's total b.s. .... And, as a secular country, no one should be forced to say "under God" -- especially kids -- who will say "under Big Bird" -- just as easily as "under God."
posted by Rastafari at 5:28 PM on June 14, 2004


I couldn't comment until now because I was at work, but now that I'm home, I do want to put my two cents in, except that I know that nobody will read this far down so I'll make it brief.

A lot of people are saying something along the lines of "he shouldn't put his kid and ex-wife through this," he should just be quiet." Well, when I was in high school, we had a ton of Christmas related stuff up on the walls that kids made in classes and then a Jewish girl's mom noticed and asked the school why they didn't also have some kids making Jewish-related stuff, or other religious stuff. Anyway, the school board decided to go even further and banned all Christmas stuff all together AND, mean-spiritedly, made it very public. For the next several years, this Jewish girl (who also happened to be non-white, which, apparently, can be tough in New Hampshire), was known as "The Jew who stole Christmas." Kids didn't say it to her face, of course, they said it behind her back so I don't know how often she heard it, but with 1600 kids in school, I would think it may have come out once in a while.

Later on in high school, I met her and we became acquaintances because we happened to be on Math Team and in Chess Club together and she was a very bright and ambitious girl. So did it hurt her to be likened to the Grinch? Probably, yes. But she still had friends, fun, and a great future ahead of her. And as to the lesson she learned from her mother? Respect yourself, stand up for yourself and do what's right. Being afraid of some small-town teasing is pathetic. If you always do what's right, you'll always have a community that will accept you for who you are.
posted by crazy finger at 5:35 PM on June 14, 2004


"one nation underpants"

Now it's fixed.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on June 14, 2004


I'd like to have God removed from "god damn it". Who do I talk to?
posted by Witty at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2004


My allegiance belongs sometimes to my country and usually to my god but it has never belonged to a flag. I stopped reciting this jingoistic babble in middle school and most of my classmates did the same.
posted by kjh at 6:01 PM on June 14, 2004


Next, we should remove God from our currency.
posted by heyadam at 6:05 PM on June 14, 2004


"Allegiance" is no attitude for the free citizen of a democracy to have to his country, or to his flag, or to his government. Allegiance is what serfs owe to their liege (duh), what subjects owe to their king. The relationship of an American to his country should be one of responsibility, as of a parent to a beloved child, or a guard to a precious treasure.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2004


I like the reciting the Bill of Rights thing, or we could dust off the "We the People" song from Schoolhouse Rock to sing everyday (with a nod to Kwantsar).

And it's completely untrue that schoolchildren recite it willingly--and i highly doubt that 2nd or 3rd grade teachers alert their students to the fact that they can opt out.
posted by amberglow at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2004


Apparently, the House report providing the justification for deoplasty said that it would "deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism" and "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral directions of the Creator". Which is nice.
posted by riviera at 7:18 PM on June 14, 2004


The semantics at work are much different.

"One nation, indivisible..."

"One nation, under god (or God), indivisible..."

The first is a simple political statement, perhaps an allusion to Reconstruction after the Civil War. The second seems to intimate that the United States is alone favored by divine powers.

I stopped saying "under God" years ago. I happen to believe that the whole universe is under the creator's purview. I have no kids, but the problem is that if I ever do, I might have to explain that to them.

SCOTUS should have taken a stand here.
posted by NedKoppel at 7:37 PM on June 14, 2004


I mean, isn't the "willingness" of the "patriotic ceremony" participant precisely the issue here?

Again, no. It's long-settled doctrine that students who object to the PoA can't be forced to recite it, or punished for refusing to recite it. The relevant school board's policy allows for abstention.*

Newdow's suit is based on the idea that the rest of the class saying it is unconstitutional. (which isn't entirely crazy, since his daughter has to stay there while other people are saying it)

*Which makes the whole thing even dumber, really. You're required to say it, unless you object to it, in which case you're not required to say it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:58 PM on June 14, 2004


which isn't entirely crazy, since his daughter has to stay there while other people are saying it
How does listening to the rest of the class say 'under God' impinge on her beliefs or lack thereof? Is there an implication that a US citizen who is not 'under God' less of a citizen?
(I am speaking as a devout agnostic who always just mumbled that part of the Pledge, and never felt any less American.)
posted by darukaru at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2004


A lot of people are saying something along the lines of "he shouldn't put his kid and ex-wife through this," he should just be quiet."

Let me clarify - I do not think the man should just be quiet. I think he's right. But I do believe he should not have involved his child and the child's mother in this issue when they don't agree with it. My objection to his behaviour is based on its relation to his particular life circumstances, not the legal and constitutional principle at issue.

But then this is a man who makes his daughter's conception through his alleged rape an issue in the custody battle over her (if he was indeed raped, that is NOT the time or the place to bring it up) so I don't think one can look to this man for exemplary judgment.
posted by orange swan at 8:23 PM on June 14, 2004


It's the very vagueness of "God" that robs it of meaning.

If the term is meaningless, then why do so many people on both sides of the debate get their panties in a bunch over the issue? The term obviously has meaning to a lot of people judging by reaction to it. Saying it "ain't so" doesn't make it not so.
posted by moonbiter at 8:40 PM on June 14, 2004


How does listening to the rest of the class say 'under God' impinge on her beliefs or lack thereof?

A lot of the school-prayer cases hinge on the student being legally required to sit and listen to other people pray. I don't know that the "under God" in the PoA would count in that light, but it's not obviously crazy to think that it might.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 PM on June 14, 2004


I pledge allegiance to Queen Fragg, and her mighty state of hysteria... /calvin&hobbes
posted by leotrotsky at 6:37 AM on June 15, 2004


How does listening to the rest of the class say 'under God' impinge on her beliefs or lack thereof?

Because she's a little girl. She's made to be the outsider by the public school she attends because she doesn't believe in God. That's just bullshit. How often do you think teachers explain to children that it's okay if they don't want to say the pledge? How hard do you think it is for a six year old girl to just sit or stand there silent as everyone else says the pledge and stares at her?
posted by callmejay at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2004


I very much agree with you, callmejay. A lot of people in this thread have toyed around with the idea of replacing "God" with the name of this, that, or the other deity, but suppose the phrase was replaced with one that denied the existence of God. Is there any doubt that the religious folk would be up in arms about it, regardless of whether or not they were required to say it? Rhenquist is wrong to call it a "descriptive phrase." The way in which it was added into the pledge, as well as the fact that the pledge is the most widely used loyalty oath, and the fact that religion is so tied in with morality make the phrase undeniably normative, and that is bound to influence anyone who is exposed to it on a frequent basis, regardless of whether or not they are forced to recite it.
posted by alphanerd at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2004


There are several more cases coming through the courts which may stand a better fight on the issue here, fyi.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2004


She's made to be the outsider by the public school she attends because she doesn't believe in God.

No, she's a little girl -- she's too young to have any firm idea whether she really believes in God or not. All she knows is what the authority figures in her life tell her. The issue is therefore whether the state's authority figures have the right to tell her differently from her parental authority figures, i.e., whether making her say "under God" undermines her parents.
posted by kindall at 10:19 AM on June 15, 2004


she's too young to have any firm idea whether she really believes in God or not.
This is a maybe thought. Add there is a fine line here not being able to know her true brain capacity.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:30 PM on June 15, 2004


If the term is meaningless, then why do so many people on both sides of the debate get their panties in a bunch over the issue?

I wouldn't want to recite a pledge that referenced a "great garbly grape," either.
posted by rushmc at 9:59 AM on June 16, 2004


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