As Expected…

…the Supreme Court has taken a pass, reversed the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision, and dismissed Michael Newdow’s suit against the Pledge of Allegiance on the technical grounds that he is not his daughter’s custodian, and therefore he has no standing to bring a complaint on her behalf. The case was 8-0 in favor of dismissal (Scalia had recused himself). Full story here.

I suppose watching the Supreme Court actually try to ban the words “under God” from the Pledge would have been entertaining, as would have been an attempt on their part to constitutionally affirm this particular bit of civic religion. (For the record: broadly speaking, I’m probably quite a bit more open to the idea of an “established” civic religion than your average American–but given the tenor of arguments which surrounded this particular case, specifically those which claimed the phrase “under God” was constitutional because it was merely “ceremonial,” I never thought it was a particularly important battle to fight.) But anyway, seriously, did anyone honestly doubt that the SC would dodge this bullet if they had the chance?

49 comments for “As Expected…

  1. lyle
    June 14, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Perhaps, per abortion,SSM, etc…we should just give up.

    In California, they are removing crosses from city symbols; but not Roman Goddesses. Why don’t we just embrace paganism? If California cities can have Roman Goddesses & not Crosses, if we can have the Statue of Liberty, Lady Liberty, Columbia & other symbols of pagan, but not Christian, authority…why not just get it over with?

    Maybe we can start with a new contest re: what the _new_ names of:
    San Diego,
    San Francisco,
    Los Angeles,
    etc. should be.

    Personally, I’m almost tempted to what Courts to ban religion from public life. It would solidify Latinos & other groups growing support for conservative politics in America.

  2. June 14, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    Russell: What civic religion battles do you think are worth fighting? You rather frequently declare that you are in favor of public (government) displays of religion, so I am puzzled as to why you aren’t more enthusiastic about reversing the 9th Circuit’s Neadow decision.

  3. Nate Oman
    June 14, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    BTW, far and away the funnest portion of this decision is watching Neadow’s reaction to the standing ruling. He is huffing and puffing mightily, claiming that he is a model parent and that the Court’s decision is a blow against families everywhere. After all, he proclaims, he spends nearly 10 days a month with his daughter.

  4. June 14, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    Nate: My quick answer would be that the Pledge, as it has been written and internalized by the public schools, is very close to the sort of contentless civic religion which you have criticized before. Not that I would have been happy to see it go; I’m glad the SC dodged the bullet. I want to keep “In God We Trust” on our currency too, and that’s an even more milquetoast bit of civic religion. I would have been delighted with an outright endorsement of the constitutional relevance of the religious principle behind the idea that we are, as a people, “under God”…but that wasn’t going to happen. So my feelings are that, on the balance, a Pledge with no theological import is not nearly as necessary a battle to fight as, say, nativity scenes, or religious holidays.

  5. June 14, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    But Russell, at the time you strenuously objected to my claim that such civic relgion was contentless and of little value. I am puzzled. Also, I sense that you are not eager to fight for the Pledge because it would require that you deploy legal arguments (eg “The ‘under God’ language isn’t really about God at all, yadda yadda”) that you find distasteful. Yet, the arguments that must be deployed to defend Creches are even worse, e.g. the Three-Reindeer-and-a-Santa exception in Lynch, or the argument that nativity scense’s have the fully secular purpose of encouraging local businesses by reving the materialism of Christmas, etc.

    Sorry, its seems to me that on this issue you need to fish or cut bait.

  6. June 14, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    When I see the Supreme Court refuses to make a decisive judgment on a major issue due to a technicality (as happened here) I feel like flapping my arms (wings) and squawking (bawk! bawk!). Maybe I should be grateful though. They could have issued a fatwa (cough cough), er, I mean ruling, that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

  7. June 14, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Nate, I think you’re right: I am being inconsistent. In our earlier discussion about civic religion way back in December, you lumped “things like ‘In God We Trust’ on the currency, the [phrase] ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, or teacher sponsored prayers in public schools” all together, and I responded in kind. Now I’m introducing a distinction which probably doesn’t hold up. (It certainly doesn’t, as you point out, turn on the quality of the legal arguments which are woven into the justification for any of these different expressions of civic religion.) So I think I either need to come up with an explanation as to why some expressions of civic religion seem to be in greater need of defense than others, or correct myself for not taking this particular struggle as seriously as I’ve taken some others.

  8. June 14, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    Russell, I’m worried about your latest admission of human frailty, not so much about what it means about you as about what it may encourage in Nate!

  9. chad too
    June 14, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    I’m a little concerned about the “ceremonial” tack as well. My state has just authorized the printing of vanity license plates with “In God We Trust” printed on them. A neighboring state has already done so, the words in gold above a picture of a flagpole with the US and state flags flying. The justification for what is an obviously intended message (God rules over this country and state, and you who don’t believe that can go find some commie-pinko state to live in) is exactly as Russell says, the use of the historical motto. What is happening in reality, though, is that the evangelicals in our state legislature are thumbing their nose at the Constitution, saying that since this is the national motto it’s fine to use. Of course, people are already making judgments about others based on whether or not they are getting the new license plate.

    There may have been a time where I might have bought into a ceremonial exception, but even that has now been co-opted. It’s being used to make an end-run around the first-amendment.

    I refuse to believe God is flattered or vexed based on what is or isn’t printed by my state on its license plate. This is no longer about harmless ceremony; it’s about government endorsing a particular religious point of view under the guise of ceremony.

    I can see no religious harm that comes from removing “under God” from the Pledge or “In God We Trust” as the motto. I also see no secular benefit in keeping the status quo. As such, I think the phrases should go.

  10. June 14, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    Chad, you seem to think that the phrase “Under God” endorses a particular religion. Which one?

  11. Adam Greenwood
    June 14, 2004 at 8:21 pm

    “I never thought it as a particularly important battle.”

    Come now. Just because the Supreme Court’s horror of belief would have required them and pledge advocates to act as if ‘under God’ didn’t mean anything doesn’t mean that we have to agree. ‘Under God’ is hardly contentless, while removing the statement already there is much more like saying ‘not under God,’ which I also find to be a meaningful statement.

  12. June 14, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    What is happening in reality, though, is that the evangelicals in our state legislature are thumbing their nose at the Constitution.

    Um…I disagree. What is happening, in reality, though is that the evangelics in our state legislature are allowing for equal opportunity; those of all persuasions, religious or not, can put whatever they want on their license plates.

  13. lyle
    June 14, 2004 at 8:35 pm

    This is no longer about protecting free speech; ; it’s about government forcing a particular secular point of view on the public under the guise of the constitutional principlal of “no establishment of religion,” instead of its true goal of radical, un-American (my hat to McCarthy [sp?] for at least one good coined phrase if naught else), & un-necessary separation of church & state.

    I can see no secular harm that comes from leaving “under God” in the Pledge or “In God We Trust” as the motto. I also see no secular benefit in forcing change. As such, I think the phrases should be expanded to include more, not less, usages in public life.

  14. Chad too
    June 15, 2004 at 12:54 pm


    you can’t be serious. Do you really think that if I marched down to my state capitol and demanded that the legislature produce a license plate that says “Joseph Smith was a True Prophet” that it would happen?

    Of course you see no secular harm in keeping “under God” in the Pledge; that’s because you agree with it. You’re putting the burden in the wrong place though. Since Congress created a law where the 1st Amendment says no law, it’s up to those who want to keep it to come up with sufficient justification for the violation. If the most anyone can come up with is innocuousness (is that a word?), then the phrase should go.

    I also laugh when some try to argue keeping “under God” with a free speech argument. You may say “under God.” I may say “under God.” Even if SCOTUS had struck down the phrase yesterday, we still could have kept saying it privately. It’s codification as federal law that is the problem. You and I have free speech rights; the government does not.

    And Measure, I know where you’re headed, and yes, I do believe that “under God” refers to at the very least the Christian God (though the definition of Christian is apparently up for debate, at least on this board). I don’t want my government to believe in/favor any gods, I want it to leave deity questions to me.

  15. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    Chad2: Hey, I act in good faith that you are serious. Of course, I’m libertarian enough to be in favor of unilateral good faith instead of demanding reciprocity [see free trade arguments].

    nice try, but you seem to forget the free exercise clause & only give a @#$@# about the establishment clause.

    Frankly, perhaps your position would be more coherent if you instead demanded that government stop putting _ANY_ & _ALL_ messages, of any type, on license plates.

    If you, or anyone else, can have a statement of any type on a license plate, then I have the same EQUAL RIGHT, to have whatever I want.

    It isn’t about government having free speech rights; ’tis about government not being able to say “ok, you can have your speech because: (1) it is popular/favored by many; unless you happen to be religious, in which case…(2) you are out of luck, because your religious speech isn’t as protected as non-religious speech.”

    So…welcome to the SSM debacle. If government sanctions X, then everyone wants the sanction…and cry foul for violation of equal rights/opportunity.

    Alas, our sad country…

  16. Chad too
    June 15, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    I haven’t forgotten free exercise, I just don’t see how it applies here. I can continue to exercise my faith and religion without the government “sanction” of my personal point of view. Do you mean to imply that free exercise means that all religions should be able to use the government to promote themselves?

  17. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 3:44 pm

    do you mean to imply that government can selectively choose which statements to favor? i.e. only non-religious statements are ok?
    should we all say, viva government censorship?


  18. Chad Too
    June 15, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    It’s not a matter of selective choice, it’s a matter of constitutional prohibition.

    The establishment clause and the Free-exercise are connected by an “or.” If the government is going to pass a religion connected law, it’s got to violate neither Establishment nor Free-Exercise.

    “In God We Trust”
    Free-exercise, maybe no but Establishment, yes.

    “The Greatest Snow on Earth”
    Free-exercise, no and establishment, no

    If you want to argue that if messages are allowed on license plates at all then all messages should be allowed, I think your argument would still fail if the message was religious in nature. The recent Locke v. Davey attempted a similar argument that failed.

    Again, you can use “In God I Trust” all you want to. A law that prohibited you from personally doing so would indeed violate free-exercise. The government has a specific from-the-people prohibition on endorsing or disparaging religion. If that’s censorship, it’s constitutionally-required censorship.

  19. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Chad2: nice response. however, it still stigmatizes “religion” in favor of everything but religion. Frankly, if we use your overly broad definition of religion to outlaw & allow government to censor, even if supposedly constitutionally mandated, then…

    everything should be called religious, whether snow, god, anti-god, etc. then, government will not endorse _ANY_ religion, belief, anti-religion or anti-belief or anything else.

    they can just take my tax dollars & stay out of my life.

  20. Chad too
    June 15, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    Well, I wouldn’t say stigmatizes, I would just say takes purely religious considerations out of the equation. I see a difference, but I also understand why you don’t.

    Perhaps a different question is in order. Do you believe the government can truly be religion-neutral? Is religion-neutral inherently anti-religion?

  21. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    depends on what ‘neutral’ means.

    if neutral means that those that call their beliefs, views, etc. “religious” are given short-thrift & less rights/opportunities than those that label theirs as “science,” etc….then no, government cannot be ‘neutral’ & not “anti-religious”.

    if neutral means that a generally applicable, content neutral law trumps religious expression…again, no. frankly, I say let the American’ Indians smoke peyote. That isn’t any reason to strip other religious folks of their religious beliefs/practices.

    if neutral means that government will accmodate & work with religious & non-religious and that there is no “separate but equal” treatment of the believer vs. the non-, then…yes.

    is it really unconstitutional to allow religious competition to be the wall of separation? competition ensures that there is no “establishment” & that all folks, religious or not, can get in their speech & live their beliefs. What is so threatening about that? or non-Con? WHy does the ACLU stand up so much for every last tiny atheist, yet when Christians or Buddhists, or the so-called “majority” religion is being hurt…they just say “oh, that’s too bad”?

  22. Chad too
    June 15, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    This is as I suspected, and probably why you and I won’t see eye-to-eye on this.

    I see the Jeffersonian wall of separation as what insures me the right to worship as I see fit. The government endorsing any religion (even the general concept of the Judeo-Christian God) frightens me because of the implications to those who don’t hold to that viewpoint. I don’t want to wake one morning to find that my concept of religion is now sufficiently-out-of-favor-enough-with-the-majority that those who “don’t see any harm” in using government to push their concept now want to prevent me from being able to practice mine. To me, religion-neutral is not religion-hostile. It is freeing to me to know that no matter my religious preferences (within reason, of course), the government has no power to approve nor disapprove, even an inferred disapproval. And of course, I allow all others the same privilege.

    The practical side of me wonders why some are fighting so hard to keep these references in. Do we really believe that God will be angry with us if His name isn’t invoked in the Pledge of Allegiance? Were those who recited the Pledge before Congress inserted the phrase somehow under condemnation because they didn’t acknowledge God? To me there’s a very rameumptom-like quality to this. I especially dislike that the addition was made so that the government could see who didn’t like it and single them out. Phooey. I don’t believe accepting Christ comes through repeating some Baptist magic phrase and I don’t believe patriotism is determined by repetition of the Pledge either.

    Personally, I don’t really see the need for a Pledge anyway. I’d be just fine if there wasn’t one in the first place.

  23. Chad Too
    June 15, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Oh, and re: your comments on the ACLU. Though I am not a member, I am familiar enough with their work to know that your characterization of them as anti-Christian is unfair. There are many cases of the ACLU stepping in to protect religious liberties; recent (as in less than eight-weeks old) examples include defending a Michigan girl who chose to use biblical scripture as her message to classmates in their yearbook and also challenging a Virginia county that wanted to forbid a Baptist group from using a public waterway to perform baptisms.

    I believe (though I don’t have the reference in front of me now) that they joined the LDS Church and many others as amici in the Stratton case that kept the government from regulating door-to-door proseltying by religious missionaries.

  24. Kingsley
    June 15, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    Chad too: Do you really believe that supporters of the Pledge as-is really believe that God will be angry with us if we alter it (or, at least, that that is our primary reason for opposing changes)? I think Pres. Packer expresses a more subtle view of the matter when he writes that “There is a crying need for the identification of atheism for what it is, and that is, a religion albeit a negative one. Atheism is a religious expression; it is one extreme end of religious philosophy.” There are some who see the frenzied push to strip every reference to a higher power from state & school as a concerted attack on one religion by another. It is not a simplistic matter of “Oh! God will be angry with us!” but a rather more subtle one of “If we take prayer & the 10 Commandments out of schools, what’s going to rush in & fill the void?”

  25. Chad too
    June 15, 2004 at 6:09 pm


    I don’t see religion-neutral as atheistic. I see it as neutral. It would be atheistic for the government to say, “There is no God.” That isn’t the case here. Religion-neutral is “we take no position on God, we leave that to you.”

    Ultimately, religion-neutral protects us believers because the government isn’t allowed to take a position one way or the other. It can’t stop anyone from believing, and it can’t force anyone to believe.

    As to the void of taking religion out of the school, do we not handle that every school day with our seminary program? Do we not exercise our rights by instructing our children as we see fit? I’m able to teach my son about Jesus and Joseph Smith without his public school teacher doing so.

    Let’s not assume that just because we believe in Christ that our brand of Christianity would be favored in schools. I live in a decidedly-Baptist state and can assure you that any attempt to bring Mormonism into the public classrooms here would be met with strong opposition to say the least. I refer you to Damon Linker’s threads for a reminder not only of our minority status, but our derided minority status.

    By using our private means of teaching devotion, we guarantee that our message gets through unwatered down by scholastic committee.

  26. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    agree to dis. :) yeah. :)

    except…you should recognize that the current policy is, if not an explicit, an implicit, denial or your right to worship & live as you will. or…if you don’t care about that (Viva Reynolds!) then remember that others do.

    btw: i am a member, albeit disgrunted, of the aclu. they do _some_good; but sadly, for every 1 case they bring doing “acceptable” neutrality as you outline it…they bring 10 that push things way over the edge into anti-religion in everything.

  27. lyle
    June 15, 2004 at 6:26 pm


    Kingsley, chad2 presents a way blown-out version of all the possible horrors & zombies. I’m not looking for government endorsement. He assumes that government committees will start dictating religious faith. Nothing could be further from reality. Also, that bit about “our version of faith” & public schools is vaguely ridiculous.

    All most Christians want is the same access & respect that everyone else gets & not to be discriminated against solely because they believe in God & say so.

    Chad2 seems to be worried that government is going to force you to believe or do, or not believe or do, “something;” which something I’m not sure he refers to.

    Government isn’t going to force anyone. We just want to put what we want on our license plates. Hold a prayer. Be able to teach about ‘historical’ christianity when ‘historical & modern’ islam, buddhism, etc. is taught in schools in the name of multicultural #$##.

    Frankly, I don’t see any horrors if:
    1. my license plate mentions God because I requested that it do so
    2. the money has God on it
    3. the pledge mentions God

    This isn’t protection. It isn’t even paternalism. ’tis rank discrimination & I don’t need protection from someone placing a religious saying on their money or their license plates.

  28. Kingsley
    June 15, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    “As to the void of taking religion out of the school, do we not handle that every school day with our seminary program? Do we not exercise our rights by instructing our children as we see fit? I’m able to teach my son about Jesus and Joseph Smith without his public school teacher doing so.”

    Your influence & the influence of Seminary & Institute will come up against very strong opposition at the University level. The majority of profs (in my experience) in philosophy etc. take every opportunity to cleverly degrade religious viewpoints while simultaneously encouraging students to give their animal nature ample experimentation. Pres. Packer’s point is that Family Night & Sunday School just aren’t enough to counterbalance the MTV mantra, repeated ad nauseum in just about every popular outlet. No one’s cringing in anticipation of a lightening strike if “under God” is taken out of the Pledge–we are cringing at the chip-chip-chipping away of every reference, no matter how seemingly innocent or generalized, to the idea of a moral absolute, leaving moral relativism basically unchallenged.

  29. Chad Too
    June 15, 2004 at 6:52 pm

    Kingsley: How can any member of the LDS Church claim that moral relativism is going unchallenged? We produce public service announcements, hold temple open houses, send thousand upon thousands of missionaries into the field, and spend countless hours sharing the gospel with friends and family.

    I can’t do anything about MTV, Viacom has every right to air it. I can share what I have with all who will listen. Despite MTV’s popularity, thousands feel the Spirit, accept the gospel, and join the Church each year.

    I also challenge that there is one moral absolute out there for the government to embrace. As passionately as I feel about the Restored Gospel, there are those of equal zeal about their faith. If we all taught the same things, there wouldn’t have been any reason for Joseph to enter the grove, would there? Do you really think federal acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian God stems the tide you fear?

    IMHO, religion and morals belong to the realm of the private. People convert to both the Church and the Gospel through the still small promptings of the Spirit, one by one. We teach individuals and small groups so that all may feel, know, and believe.

    I’m fine with your concern about Satan’s prevalence in our society; I’m just not sure that the solution you propose really addresses the situation.

  30. Kingsley
    June 15, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Chad Too: Not sure that I proposed a solution. I felt you over-simplified the supporters of the Pledge as-is. Golly, Huck, God’s gonna be angry, ain’t he? etc. I do say taking prayer, the 10 Commandments (I’m all for posting the Islamic etc. equivalent as well, by the by) out of the schools, going after libraries for Nativity scenes while defending the sacred right of Joe Perve to have sex with the manger sheep (Dennis Miller’s example), etc. etc. etc., are misguided efforts at best, & motivated by alternate religious loyalties (a la Pres. Packer) at worst. Like the argument that the writers of the 2nd Amendment certainly did not have private gun ownership in mind, but the writers of the 1st Amendment certainly meant to protect computer-simulated child porn, I think some are taking the idea of no sectarian gov. support of religion way too far, & creating zombies, horrors (a la Lyle) where there are none. Don’t allow Internet access to hardcore porn in children’s libraries? Why, the next step is Nazism! Etc.

  31. Gary Cooper
    June 15, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Chad Too,

    You said, “religion and morals belong to the realm of the private…” What?! Just what *is* law itself then, if not an expression of morality that all are expected to adhere to?

    I’ve been watching you and Lyle (and Kingsley) go at it on this subject all afternoon, and I wasn’t going to jump in, but now I just gotta…

    Chad, let me just say this. Law *is* a reflection of *somebody’s* morality, and hence *somebody’s* religion (atheism, humanism, christianity, whatever). Law is also a reflection of politics (government), and so is a product of FORCE–somebody had the guns, or the votes, or whatever to put their people in a position to write the law, and/or to change or maintain it. God exists, and so does Satan. Satan certainly understands the role of law, since ever Scriptural account we have shows him attempting to gain control of government so he can then use its POWER to kill and destroy the saints. The Scriptures also tell us about the frustration of prophets trying to get complacent saints to wake up to the dangers around them. It helps to recognize those dangers that are greatest, no?

    Now, I don’t see Baptists talking about using legal power against other churches for preaching against homosexuality—but I do see atheists and their friends do this. I don’t see Pentecostals advocate that Brigham City, Utah change its name because of it religious conotation—but some anti-religious legal people now are talking about the “inherent” unconstitutionality of city names like Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. I could go on, but I would just point out that I wonder if anybody bothers to read what atheists and humanists and legal deconstructionists have written over the years about the *ultimate* goal of stripping God from law, schools, etc.? Hm? The ultimate destruction of organized Christianity and Judaism—that’s what such people, from John Dewey and Bertrand Russell to Madelyn Murray O’Haire and Angela Davis, etc. have advocated over the last 100 years or more, and these people are not stupid. A full frontal assault on religion would be seen for what it is, but patient gradualism has proven extremely effective, and now you have scholars and others advocating openly (not yet policy, but advocating for future policy) things that would be laughed off the stage a generation or two ago. Where will this train stop, and we finally get off and say, “enough!”—when it reaches the gates of Hell? Or maybe goes past that point? (it would be a little late then…)

    Finally, does anyone believe that Church leaders have any degree of inspiration at all on this subject, that they may be seeing dangers ahead that are real, and that they could be right and prevailing legal opinion might be wrong? Sorry for speaking so emotionally, but I fail to see how the saints can put there trust in the arm of flesh and beleive that a steadily increasing legal agnosticism will somehow keep our precious freedoms safe, and that the real threat somehow is found not with the oppressors, those who seek to strip God entirely from our society, but with the victims—the devout Christian people who are the initial sufferers at the hands of this despotism (Satan will come for us later, when all our potential allies and friends are gone), who seem more concerned about doing something about it than we are, who hold the Priesthood but can’t agree on the threat or what to do about it, despite clear warnings from our leaders. The horror…the horror…:) (I’m going home to my family now, but I’ll check in again on this thing tonight.)

  32. Chad Too
    June 16, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    Sounds as though there are zombies coming from all directions!

    Gary, It is my opinion that there are laws that parallel morals, but they don’t gain their power from being a prevailing moral.

    If I was arrested for stealing a car (something I would never do) and the defense I put up was that my only offense was against the morals of the community (thus the law had no hold on me), I’d be laughed out of court. By stealing a car, I wrongfully deprived someone of their property. That is where the prosecution would hang, and I’d be convicted.

    Laws that are based solely on morals are going to be challenged and are likely to fail. You say that this is a horrible thing, the downfall of our society. Yet even in the 100-year-era of O’Hair, Dewey, and the others, we’ve seen phenomenal growth in the Church.

    When I say that religion and morals are the realm of the private, I mean that government has no business infringing in my (or anyone else’s) personal religious and moral freedoms any more than the Constitution allows. I enjoy my religious freedom; it is what allows me to be LDS in a country where that is a minority position. It is what allows me to live my life at a higher standard that what the government can compel. I’ve been of legal age to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, and pornography for over a decade — but I don’t because the moral standards I hold for myself are high.

    I’m sure you would bristle your government tried to tell you how you can and can’t use your religious liberties. That’s exactly how Newdow and these others are reacting to a government that adds a reference to a deity they don’t believe in and makes it part of a government pledge — in direct violation of a Constitution that says government does not have the power to do so.

    I think it’s a fair question to ask why I, someone who does believe in God and worships faithfully, would side with Newdow in this case. It’s because I believe that anytime the government or a church crosses the church/state line it weakens the power of it. If we say “Well, the government shouldn’t be able to acknowedge God, but we like the God they acknowledge so we’ll look the other way,” then I think we’ve just lost part of our religious freedom.

    This is why I ask about the practical side of this debate. When O’Hair won at the Supreme Court, did we lose the ability to pray? No. As private citizens we can pray all we’d like. We can even pray in public places as long as our prayers aren’t disruptive to the event at hand. Any law that would tell me I can’t pray would be struck down. All O’Hair did was succeed in making her point, a government school has no business leading or forcing a prayer on her (or anyone else’s) children. If Newdow eventually prevails in court, we can still teach our children about God, Christ, etc, and that we believe that God watches over our country. All that changes is that the government can’t teach it.

    As to trusting in the arm of flesh, I strongly disagree that this is what I am doing. Instead, I am demanding my government follow the divinely-inspired Constitution, even when following it might mean the elimination of something I think is good or right. As Latter-day Saints, we believe the Lord was directly involved in the establishing of the Constitution (see D&C 101:77-80); for the rights and protection of all, not just those who agree with us. If the Constitution is divine, then that includes the 1st Amendment.

    I also support the declaration in D&C 143 verse 4: “…but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” If I couple that with the words of a Prophet in the 11th Article of Faith and “allow all men the same privilege,” I just don’t see how I can support the phrase “under God” in the Pledge. D&C 134 is very straight forward in it’s support of the Jeffersonian concept of separation of church and state. I follow that too.

    What’s happening, Gary, is the untwining of church and state that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sure, that’s not an easy process, but I think it has to happen.

  33. lyle
    June 16, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    oddly enough, arguments that Chad2 cans, i.e. the majority/will of the people want it so even if it goes against ‘a’ possible textual constitutional prohibition

    don’t seem to fly with liberals. however, when they argue for increased governmental power, etc. (i.e. their favorite pet projects), then the facts of recent history, tradition, pragmatic considerations, etc. all line up & you get Yale law profs. saying that “the people” have “popularly amended” the Constitution w/o a formal amendment.

    hm. again, probably doesn’t mean much. I’m much better at finding contradictions than solving them.

  34. Gary Cooper
    June 16, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    Chad Too,

    Thanks for your reasoned and measured response to my thread, which was, well, less than measured. (I don’t think it was zombie-like, though; perhaps more banshee-like—:)) I guess we can agree to disagree, and to do so amiably. (One of the reasons I love T&S is that we are all so patient and loving here. We all remain calm and understanding whenever one of us begins foaming at the mouth and chewing the carpet, as I did yesterday.)

    Now, I’ll just make a couple of points, on what is now probably an exhausted subject:

    First, I well understand the quotation from D&C 134 about our not believing in government’s “prescribing rules of worship’, but the fact we don’t beleive in such does not, per se, make such a thing “unconstitutional”–rather, the verse simply states that we think “prescription” is bad policy. I think it would be bad policy for the state of Oklahoma to declare that the Southern Baptist Convention is its official state church, but I wouldn’t think it unconstitutional (and the Framers must have agreed, because several states had “state churches” at the time of the founding, and Maryland was the last to abolish this, and not until 1828). My point here is that we have a tendency, on the Right and Left, to declare “unconstitutional” whatever we don’t like, when in fact what we are really saying is that we think something is bad policy, and for whatever reason we wish to abandon the legislative process the Framer’s would have pointed us to and instead seek for a judicial solution. The latter may in fact create a better policy than before, but by means that, long term, remove “the people” from the equation of public policy, and place decisions more and more in the hands of an unelected elite.

    Second, your analogy of the stealing a car would seem to do more to prove my point than your own. *Why* are their laws against stealing cars? Is it not because society has made the moral decision that permitting theft would is unjust, and would destabilize society, and that a stable society in which personal property is respected is a positive good? Is this not a moral decision? We could just as easily make the decision to allow anyone to steal, provding they are strong enough to get away with it, encouraging the idea that a “right” to property only exists for the strong, those able to defend themselves, with law having nothing to do with it. Again, *somebody’s* morality is going to get legislated and enforced, one way or the other.

    Finally, I share your faith in adhering to our insprired Constitution, but I do not believe the men who stood barefoot in the snow at Valley Forge, nor the men who attended the Constituional Convention, did so with the idea that they would be banning nativity scenes, crosses, group prayers, and mention of Deity from government. In fact, it is patently obvious that such men would *not* have fought and worked for what they did if they, in fact, suspected that by so doing God would be “banned” from government. Now, if you tell me that you support the US Constitution as a document that means what the men at the Philadelphia convention in 1789 intended it to mean, then great. But clearly those men would not have banned God from government; certainly not in a constitutional sense. So, you must be referring to a different constitution—one concocted from whole cloth and at the whim of 5 or more unelected judges (completely inverting the balance of government the Framers said they intended—instead of the Judiciary being weakest, because unelected, and the Congress, especially the US House, being strongest, the Courts are now the strongest). I’m sorry, but that isn’t the constitution I recognize as “inspired”; it’s not the one Joseph Smith believed in as stated during his 1844 presidential campaign; it’s not the one the Lord’s prophets have believed in (there were official First Presidency statements condemning the Madelyn Murray O’Haire prayer decision at the time); it’s not the one I think anyone committed to a republican, elected form of government can have confidence in.

  35. Kingsley
    June 16, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    Brains … brains …

  36. Chad Too
    June 16, 2004 at 6:49 pm


    Inserting a reference to Deity in a secular pledge isn’t mere than bad policy. Extending copyrights to life plus 75 years was bad policy, but Constitutional. Adding God to a government pledge is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment.

    You miss the point of the stealing analogy. Laws against theft stand because the Constitution says you can’t be deprived of property without due process, not merely because the majority considers theft immoral. The law parallels the moral, but the efficacy comes from the Constitution, not the moral. There are plenty of laws I consider immoral, but as long as they aren’t constitutionally suspect my mere moral offense won’t support a conviction.

    I can’t support you in your separation of the pre-1844 Constitution and the post-1844 Constitution. I believe Christ to be omniscient, and he approved the First Amendment despite knowing that some would abuse it. As for the Founders, I don’t quite have the same level of hero worship that you seem to, except to say that their writings show that the “ban” you speak of is exactly what they intended and they ultimately added the First Amendment to insure that very thing. Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists is particularly telling.

  37. Kingsley
    June 16, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    Gary, you hero-worshipper! When Christ greenlighted the 1st Amendment, banning Nativity scenes was first & foremost on His mind.

  38. Kingsley
    June 16, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    “[The Founders’] writings show that the ‘ban’ you speak of is exactly what they intended and they ultimately added the First Amendment to insure that very thing. Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists is particularly telling.”

    Now that’s a pretty sweeping statement! The Danbury letter merely quotes the 1st Amendment & in no way offers the sort of interpretation that you find compelling. Sure, the Founders always intended the name “Los Angeles” to be challenged as an obvious example of the gov. “establishing” religion in California. Just look at their “writings”!

  39. lyle
    June 17, 2004 at 2:28 pm


    So, given your understanding…this recent statement by a high government official is unconstitutional. And since that official is breaking the law of the land, should presumably be removed from office, correct? after all, we don’t want the government imposing “its” religious views on the poor common people, eh?

    “Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man.”

  40. Professor Fether
    June 17, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    The statement is one of Bush’s non-sequiturs about stem cell research. It is arguably unconstitutional, unquestionably a stupid policy position, and undoubtedly an attempt to pander right-wing religious nutcases at the expense of the elderly and infirm.

    And, yes, removing that particular high government official from office is a capital idea.

  41. lyle
    June 17, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Yes, and soon we will be moving towards banning unconstitutional speech by anonymous so-called professors too…I’m sure. :)

  42. Kingsley
    June 17, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    So, the most basic tenet of believing people everywhere, that God is our & the world’s creator, is now an example “nutcase” right-wing extremism. There’s something certainly nutty (not to mention extremist) in that statement, but I wouldn’t pin it on the Right …

  43. Gary Cooper
    June 18, 2004 at 11:39 am

    Seeing where this discussion is now going, I am reminded that the Founders, thankfully, placed in the text of the Constitution the requirement that there be “no religious test” for public office. This is exactly one of the reasons that I fear the political Left in this regard, and one of the reasons I abandoned socialism in my younger days (I was never a “liberal”—I was a thorough-going socialist). Today, the secular Left ultimately seeks to create just such a religious test for public office (in fact, public *anything*)—they ultimately seek to ban from the public scene all mention of deity, and ban all those who publicly avow an alleigance to the God of the Judaism and Christianity. If they succeed, just what sort of “republic” will we be left with? Hm?

    If government officials are *not* taking the Bible’s admonitions to heart on such issues as whether or how to wage war, how to care for the poor, how to punish law-braekers, etc., then what standard will they use? The cold, barren utilitarianism of a Jeremy Bentham? Government without the true and living God tends to degenerate into fascism—the devil’s playground of political science—and whether that fascism is of the corporatist/big business variety, or the “class struggle”/”down with the bourgoisie” variety (yes, communism was always just fascism by another name), it will make precious little difference to those of us who will suffer under it.

    I am a believing Latter-day Saint, I select who I vote for based on religious priciples, I speak openly of those principles, and I would not cease to do so if I ran for public office. Others can choose to disagree, and vote accordingly. But—please, please, do not tell me that I have to “shut up” when it comes to publicly acknowledging religious, even Christian, reasons for supporting or rejecting a public policy, as the thread above did in critisizing Pres. Bush’s statement on stem-cell research, because *almost any Latter-day Saint could have made a similar statement* on this issue or a host of others. For goodness sakes, President Hinckley could have said it with regard to a number of issues today. “Unconstitutional” to say publicly that, “Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man.”?! I suppose you would also demand a President’s resignation if he said something like, “A comet is on a direct course to hit our planet in the next few days, and we can do nothing about it. Let us pray…”? Please…

  44. obi-wan
    June 18, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Pardon, but whatever makes you think that “almost any Latter-Day Saint” would claim that God opposes stem-cell research? Or that if a Latter-Day Saint were in public office he or she would advance that claim as a reason not to fund stem-cell research?

    I see nothing in our theology that compels that result, and even if it did, hope that an LDS public servant would have the sense not to try to impose it as policy on others who have no such belief.

  45. Gary Cooper
    June 18, 2004 at 12:28 pm


    I was not referring to the stem-cell policy per se, but to the statement the president made as to why he opposed it. Dr. Fether’s criticism of the statement seemed based, at least partly, on his dislike for the religious nature of the statement. In saying what I did above, I thought I made it clear that the nature of the statement, “Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man,” is such that one could make this statement about a lot of other issues besides stem-cell research, (such as deliberately aborting fetuses to “harvest” their organs, or euthanasia of the elderly, etc.). What I was complaining about was the idea that NOBODY in public office be allowed to offer religious reasons for any stance they might take, which taken to its logical conclusion, would ban me, as a Latter-day Saint, if I were a political candidate, from saying something like, “I must oppose the president’s war in Iraq, because as a Christian, I believe war is so serious a thing that it must be engaged in only for reasons that are “just”, such a self-defence, and I feel this war fails the test as a “just” war for the following reasons.” Now, I might not agree with a person saying that, but I have no problem with a senator or congressman giving such a justification for why they will vote a certain way, etc. Some here have seemed to take the opposite tack–that it would ALWAYS be wrong for a political leader to offer such a statement, even to the point of recommending his/her removal from office. THAT is what I am opposed to—the idea that my right to free speech is taken away from me because I religious.

  46. Kaimi
    June 18, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Just as a quick aside, the church has explicitly chosen a position that is not opposed to stem cell research. (I found a copy of the statement at the site, at . I can’t locate a link on, though I’ve seen it there as well.)

  47. Gary Cooper
    June 18, 2004 at 2:13 pm


    Just to make it easy for everybody, here is the First Presidency statement:

    “While the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position at this time on the newly emerging field of stem cell research, it merits cautious scrutiny. The proclaimed potential to provide cures or treatments for many serious diseases needs careful and continuing study by conscientious, qualified investigators. As with any emerging new technology, there are concerns that must be addressed. Scientific and religious viewpoints both demand that strict moral and ethical guidelines be followed.” To me, this neither rejects stem cell research, nor endorses it. It is essentially cautionary in tone.

    If George W. Bush, who is not LDS, wants to tell me he opposes stem cell research using new aborted fetal tissue and that his reasons for doing so are primarily religious, fine. I can agree or disagree. But I am not one to want to “string him up” just because he is honest enough to tell us all that. I’m not ready to throw him out office because he makes religious statements (partly because if I were, I would also have to reject Presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, etc., who also made religious statements in office). The US Constitution is not the Humanist Manifesto. God did not inspire the Founding Fathers in its creation, and raise those men up for that purpose, so that they could create a document that would enshrine agnosticism as the law of the land, and ban any and all mention of Himself and His teachings in public.

  48. obi-wan
    June 18, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    For my money, Bush can talk about God all he wants to, as long as he doesn’t start incorporating his religious views into national policy.

    As a church that faced state-sponsored annihilation in the name of “Christian morality” we of all people ought to be deeply concerned about such mingling of religion and politics.

    As a Latter-Day Saint, I don’t particularly worry about living under a government run by agnostics. But I desperately fear living under a government run by the so-called “Christians” that Bush’s statement is meant to court.

  49. chad too
    June 21, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    I can see this thread has pretty much run it’s course, but now that I’m back from a business trip, I do want to address one point Gary made.

    “THAT is what I am opposed to—the idea that my right to free speech is taken away from me because I religious.”

    Removing “under God” from the Pledge is not about your free speech. You can continue to believe that God watches over this nation, you can tell anyone about it you’d like. If you would like to post those words on a sign in your front yard, do so. If you’d like your answering machine message to be a full minute of nothing but the words “one nation under God,” you could do so even if Newdow had prevailed. If you’d like, stand on your roof and scream your devotion until suppertime. No one could stop you. It’s your right.

    You do indeed have free speech, Gary. The government does not. The constitutional violation is not that you say “under God” when you say the Pledge, it is that “under God” is placed in the Pledge as a matter of federal law. Especially heinous is that even the then-President knew that the reason for adding it was to force those who don’t believe in God out into the open.

    Removing it doesn’t stop you from believing it, or talking about it. Congress overstepped the First Amendment when they added it, and it needs to go, even if we agree with the sentiment of it.

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