I thought the brouhaha over the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling over the Pledge of Allegiance would have come and gone by now. Alas, I was wrong. I did not want to comment again this soon on the issue, and I am going to repeat myself a few times. (1) However, some people just cannot leave well enough alone.
A group called MillionsofAmericans.com (MOA) is proposing the following amendment to the Constitution:
"When recited or written, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States shall be: 'I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"
MOA states that we need such an amendment because, "We need to take the Pledge of Allegiance out of the arbitrary, politically correct hands of liberal judicial activists -- now and forever."
Again, I did not want to comment on the Pledge issue again, but this idea really gets my dander up for a variety of reasons.
1.) MOA asks: "What if a future President names liberals like those in the 9th Circuit to the US Supreme Court?"
There seems to be no end to conservative scare mongering about liberal presidents filling the federal bench with liberal judges. While the president nominates federal judges, the Senate must confirm them. For six of his eight years in the White House, Bill Clinton's nominees had to pass through the filter of a Republican Senate. They passed quite freely, as there was little if any gridlock over judicial appointments between 1995 and 2000.
Indeed, we have had a Republican president and/or a Republican senate majority for 19 of the 21 years since Ronald Reagan took office and 35 of the 49 years since Dwight Eisenhower took office. What kind of judicial slime are Republicans putting their blessing on? The accusation that it is entirely the Democrats' fault just doesn't withstand scrutiny. Both factions of the Incumbent Socialist Party are equally guilty. If Republicans were as true to the Constitution as they say they are, why are the courts in such a mess?
2.) This is not the first such suggested trivialization of the Constitution in response to a bad Court ruling. For years, there has been a movement afoot for some sort of religious freedom amendment. This has been in response to the Court's 1962 ruling in Engel v. Vitale, which declared school prayer unconstitutional. This is a classic example of attacking the symptom, not the problem. The problem is reckless disregard for the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment, the Ninth Amendment (i.e. the "right to be left alone" amendment that allows parents to educate their children as they see fit without having to seek the state's permission), and the Tenth Amendment, which forbids federal intrusion into any area not specifically authorized elsewhere in the Constitution.
Republicans never get rid of anything that Democrats hath wrought. They just put their people in charge of it. The problem isn't Christianity and the problem isn't education. The problem is the state education monopoly. Forcing everyone into a one-size-fits-all education system is just as asinine as forcing everyone into one-size-fits-all clothing. We will not end all this hairsplitting over school prayer, condoms, evolution, gay curricula, etc., until we end, yes end, the federal education monopoly. Don't give me this jive about how "we can't turn back the clock". We need to turn back the clock and do it now.
In 1989, the Supreme Court shot down 48 state laws forbidding desecration of the American flag. President Bush Senior, as well as Republicans across the land, called for an anti-flag desecration amendment. This idea is still quite popular. As reprehensible as flag desecration is, it is hardly so grave a situation as to justify a constitutional amendment.
We live in a nation of 300 million people and, even though it is perfectly legal, there are about 12 instances of flag desecration per year. The prospect of ostracism that would follow any flag burning incident is a far stronger deterrent to such behavior than any law could ever be. An amendment forbidding flag desecration would backfire in the form of widespread civil disobedience. Talk show host Michael Reagan summarizes it beautifully. He says that while he sees no flag desecration now, an anti-desecration amendment would result in widespread flag desecration.
3.) Speaking of civil disobedience, why don't "we the people" just ignore the courts and engage in unconstitutionally forbidden activity anyway? Kids should go ahead and pray at graduation ceremonies and football games anyway. Let them have after school Bible study clubs and let teachers with spinal columns lead such clubs anyway. Let them say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety anyway. Like Dr. Seuss' Whos in Whoville, let us exercise our God-given rights regardless of what the federal Grinch says or does.
What are the authorities going to do? Haul a bunch of first-graders off to San Quentin for saying "under God" when reciting the Pledge? Reopen Alcatraz for teachers who lead after school Bible clubs?
I am all for teaching children to respect legitimate authority. (E.g. Honor thy father and thy mother.) However, the idea that children should blindly follow tyrants is appalling.
If the Supreme Court oversteps its bounds as it did a few years ago, when it declared unconstitutional a Nebraska law forbidding partial-birth abortion, let Nebraska or whatever state stand up to the feds and keep the statute on the books anyway.
Even if this Pledge amendment passes, I will continue to omit the word "indivisible". A free society must acknowledge the right to secede. What are the Pledge Polizei going to do? Where's my orange jumpsuit?
The Bible, in Acts 5:29, instructs us to obey God rather than man. Jefferson stated, "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."
Four times in my life I have sworn an oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same." The amendment process is as difficult as it is to prevent frivolous amendments. Do we want an amendment every time the courts issue a bad decision?
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes." Amending the Constitution over the Pledge of Allegiance is as "light and transient" a cause as I can imagine.
An old friend in Arizona is fond of saying that he supports and defends the Constitution "against all enemies foreign, domestic, and elected." Let me add to that "foreign, domestic, elected, appointed or otherwise exerting undue authority over the American people."
With this in mind, I pledge not to comment on this nonsense again any time soon. Really. Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye. Stick a dagger in my thigh. I promise.
(1) Read One Nation Under God or Under Man? (Back to top.)
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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