Newdow says get God the hell out!

Discussion in 'Politics' started by FasterPussycat, Sep 5, 2002.

  1. "Michael Newdow, an atheist, has a daughter who attends public ele-mentary school in the Elk Grove Unified School District in California. Each day, following state law, the teachers lead students in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The specific law states that public schools begin each school day with "appropriate patriotic exercises" and that the Pledge would be sufficient to comply. The specific school policy states that "Each elementary school class [shall] recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag once each day."

    At no point was any student, including Newdow's daughter, forced to recite the Pledge. That has already been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (although it should be noted that Barnette was decided in 1943 and the words "under God" were not added until 1954). Instead, Newdow argued that his daughter suffered harm because she would:

    watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God, and that our's [sic] is 'one nation under God.'

    In other words, Newdow's position was that it is unconstitutional for a state employee to lead students in an exercise which is fundamentally religious in nature because that represents the state endorsing some particular view. The fact that his daughter was not required to participate in this exercise was not sufficient to make it constitutional - the mere fact that she was a recipient of the message that certain religious beliefs are endorsed by the government was sufficient to entail harm.

    The school district sought to have the case dismissed. The United States Congress, the United States, and the President of the United States joined in this motion, which was approved by a District Court judge. Newdow appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Court Decision:

    The Court recognized very early on that this was fundamentally a religious issue when it found that Newdow, as a father, had standing to bring his suit in the first place. According to the Court:

    Newdow has standing as a parent to challenge a practice that interferes with his right to direct the religious education of his daughter.

    This effectively set the stage for considering whether or not the Pledge has enough of a religious component to prevent the State from endorsing it or leading children in recitation of it. Although being affected in one component of standing, another is harm - if Newdow could not demonstrate harm, then he suit would be dismissed. Many people who object to the decision base their argument on the idea that there is no harm done because the students are not compelled to recite the Pledge.

    The Court, however, accepted Supreme Court precedent which stipulates that the mere enactment of a policy by a school district could be held to cause harm to students and/or parents if that policy violates the separation of church and state. One case was Wallace v. Jaffree, in which the Supreme Court found that law which specifically listed "silent prayer" as a possible use for a moment of silence was unconstitutional, even though no students were forced to pray.

    Another precedent cited was Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, in which Court upheld a challenge to a school policy of permitting, but not requiring, prayer led by a student at football games. In this latter, the Supreme Court held that the government violates the Constitution by the "mere passage ...of a policy that has the purpose and perception of government establishment of religion." Thus, it isn't necessary for a student to participate in prayers or the Pledge in order to be harmed when the government endorses and encourages participation.

    After settling those points, the Court considered whether or not the Pledge survived the "Endorsement Test," formulated by Jusice O'Connor in Lynch v. Donnelly. According to the majority opinion, the Pledge definitely endorses religion and religious belief:

    ...the phrase "one nation under God" in the context of the Pledge is normative. To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead, it is to swear alle-giance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice, and - since 1954 - monotheism. ...A profession that we are a nation "under God" is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation "under Jesus," a nation "under Vishnu," a nation "under Zeus," or a nation "under no god," because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion.

    Clearly, if "under no god" would entail a discouragement of religion and religious belief, then "under god" entails an encouragement of religion and religious beliefs. If "under no god" is unconstitutional, then "under god" must also be unconstitutional - they are two sides of the same question. Use of "under no god" would tell theists that they are outsiders; similarly, the Court held that the phrase "under god" sends a message to unbelievers "that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community." (quoted in the decision from Lynch)

    The Court further held that the Pledge fails the Coercion Test, as used in Lee v. Weisman. Just as in the Lee case, the Pledge forces students to choose between participating in an exercise with religious content or protesting - not something which the government should be permitted to do.

    Although the Pledge could be invalidated on either of the above points, the Court then proceeded to apply the Lemon Test. To survive the Lemon Test and be found constitutional, a law must: (1) have a secular purpose, (2) have a principal or primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and (3) not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

    According to the Court, the Pledge readily fails the first prong because the legislative history makes it clear that the purpose of the words "under God" was to advance religion. The defendants argued that the whole Pledge was not religious, but the Court recognized that this wasn't relevant due to the fact that the problematic words "under God," were specifically inserted long after the Pledge as a whole was formulated.

    The school district's policy itself failed the second prong of the Lemon Test because "the policy is highly likely to convey an impermissible message of endorsement to some and disapproval to others of their beliefs regarding the existence of a monotheistic God."

    In effect, the Court applied every possible test to the Pledge and the policy of reciting the pledge, finding that none of the tests were successful. As a result, the Court held that both the addition of the words "under God" and the school district's policy itself were violations of the Establishment Clause.

    The decision of this panel of three judges was not unanimous. According to the dissent, the conclusions reached above would end up being problematic because:

    ...we will soon find ourselves prohibited from using our album of patriotic songs in many public settings. "God Bless America" and "America The Beautiful" will be gone for sure, and while use of the first and second stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner will still be permissible, we will be precluded from straying into the third.

    Unfortunately, it does not appear as though the dissent really understands the decision, because neither of the aforementioned songs have had their lyrics dictated by law, and it is such laws which are at question.

    It should be noted that the plaintiff, Michael Newdow, successfully represented himself in this case."

    I agree, GET GOD THE HELL OUT!:mad:

    and get Him out of congress too.
  2. i absolutely love that guy..i've seen him on tv a few times. every time someone asks him a question regarding this issue, he has the perfect answer. i love it.
  3. BruceF


    Of course, nowhere in that article does it mention that the girl's parents are divorced, the mother has custody, the daughter is a practicing christian, and the daughter doesn't have a problem with the phrase and recites it in class.

    BTW, this happened a few months ago. Why bring it up now?
  4. why must people like you always divert this to the technicalities of his daughter's situation? is that the real issue here? no!

    the issue is, parents should be able to keep their children free of religious influence if they want. PERIOD!!!!! THAT IS THE ISSUE!!! THE ISSUE IS NOT THE TECHNICAL PROBLEMS THIS ONE GUY HAS!

    it's a matter of principle, not a matter of poking holes in his lawsuit.
  5. If U.S. is a country of law, the court's decision will be upheld and "under God" will be removed from the pledge. "In God we trust" will also be removed from the dollar bill. The legalities of the case are very trivial, the decision was a legal no-brainer.
  6. i agree 100%, but this case may be ahead of its time. :(

  7. We might as well say "In Unicorns We Trust". (equally as ASININE!)

    Are we a nation of rational people or perpetual fools?!

    How the mighty (the church) have fallen! Darkhorse - america's belated answer to the Ayatollah Khomeini - had better get his ass into gear with his christian revolution, time's a wastin'!
  9. ElCubano


    We 800 million strong....