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September 22, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if you are wrong? That’s the question I would like to ask Michael Newdow. He is the man responsible for the lawsuit in California that is gaining notoriety after a federal judge forbid even the voluntary recitation of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in an order against the Elk Grove (CA) United School District.

I was rather shocked to learn that Newdow is both an atheist and a reverend. Yes, he is Rev. Dr. Michael Newdow, who follows the tenets of the Universal Life Church, which summed up in a few words, is simply do what is right.

The reverend says he brought the lawsuit against his local school district in Sacramento to protect his young daughter and her religious rights as guaranteed by the constitution.

His lawsuit states “to the plaintiff and his religious brethren, belief in a deity represents the repudiation of rational thought processes, and offends all precepts of science and natural law. Our religion incorporates the same values of goodness, hope, advancement of civilization and elevation of the human spirit common to most others. We, however, feel that all these virtues must ultimately be based on truth, and that they are only hindered by reliance upon a falsehood, which we believe any God to be.”

Before I get to my initial question, I’ll raise a few easier points of argument.

Is atheism a religion? To protect this legal argument, one would have to argue that it is a religion. Newdow is an ordained reverend, and he does follow the beliefs of an established church. While I would argue that atheism is not a religion, and thus has no legal protection under the constitution, I’m sure I could be debated on the issue and likely lose, so I’ll move on.

Where the problem arises is the fact that here we are more than 200 years later trying to interpret what a bunch of guys really meant when they wrote our Constitution.

Did our founding fathers fight for freedom so that some guy in California could sue his school district for allowing kids to voluntarily recite a pledge of allegiance to their country?

Is that freedom from religious persecution or persecution of the religious?

I’m sure there are millions of ways to interpret the foundation of the United States, but I don’t believe that this is what John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had in mind when the signed the Declaration of Independence.

It states “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So I guess Dr. Newdow will have to file another lawsuit against the school’s history department if it wishes to teach about the Declaration of Independence.

He cites the First Amendment of the Constitution to defend his claim. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

I’m no attorney, but to me, the First Amendment protects the school’s right to allow students to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance, stating “one Nation, under God.”

I wasn’t there when the Revolutionary War was fought, but I believe that the religious aspect of the rebellion was an effort to allow each individual to practice religion freely, not a struggle to suppress the religious beliefs of others.

So to use the First Amendment to argue against God is an affront to every thing I believe the law stands for.

Beyond the legal issue lies the biggest question of all for Mr. Newdow. What if you’re wrong? By eliminating God from school, you take away any chance your daughter may have of learning about her religious options. Are you so sure that there is no God that you are unwilling to allow your daughter the opportunity to make her own decision? Are you that insecure in your own beliefs that the mere mentioning of the word God in the Pledge is this big a concern for you? I don’t think I should be able to prevent you from saying “one Nation under no God,” so please understand why I feel like you can’t keep me from allowing my kids to say “one Nation, under God.”


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