Democrats & Liberals Archives

Supremes Reveal Cowardice

It was reported last week that the U.S. Supreme Court ducked the question of the constitutionality of the “under God” phrase added to the Pledge of Allegiance by Congress in 1954. By avoiding making a decision, this right leaning court has once again weakened itself, the country, and the American family.

In case you have forgotten, the first Amendment to the Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
No one argues that this is a constitutional issue. It is also a politically charged issue, and one that I believe deserves a full hearing by the court. The problem that the court faces is that it is blatantly un-constitutional, and they knew that if they heard arguments, it is doubtful that a convincing line of reasoning could be made to uphold the law. So they took the low road, the very low road, and used the technicality of the plaintiffs’ custodial rights as a parent being in question.

I’m against the Pledge modification by Congress for four very simple reasons:


  1. It clearly conflicts with the establishment of religion clause. By stating “under God”, Congress establishes that there is a God, and that our country is under God’s domain. If that doesn’t break the establishment clause, what does?
  2. It conflicts with the “abridging the freedom of speech” clause. What right does Congress have to tell us what to say? If Congress had created the pledge, I could maybe deal with them changing it. In that case it would be like Congress modifying a tax law. But Congress didn’t create or publish the original Pledge; Francis Bellamy did in “The Youth’s Companion” in 1892. It was in regular use before being officially adopted by Congress in 1942. Imagine Congress passing a law changing Psalm 23 to “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Congress art with me; thy rod and thy staff and thy taxes they comfort me.” Congress should have as much right to force speech upon us as it does to restrict our speech.
  3. It offends my religions beliefs, and I’m not an atheist. By using the words “under God” it implies that God automatically extends protection and blessings over the U.S, no matter what actions it may take. I would have preferred a version influenced by the Boy Scout pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, in duty to God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” This would place the responsibility on us to do our duty. But since Congress tends to screw up most things they touch, we shouldn’t expect much else. By proclaiming divine providence under God, we weaken ourselves.
  4. It didn’t have to be modified by law. It had already been modified several times before Congress got their hands on it. Should Congress be allowed to change what had previously been a grass roots patriotic expression? If President Eisenhower had suggested a contest for school children to come up with a pledge modification that reflects our national heritage of service, and then chosen a winner. No laws would have been passed, but the effect would be the same (without an unconstitutional law).

So the Supremes ducked an obvious constitutional question, impinged on the rights of parents, and missed an opportunity to create a win-win situation for everyone. They could have ruled the law unconstitutional, but given the history of the pledge as being a grass roots expression, allowed individual states to determine which version they use. It’s just a shame that this court seems to lack courage and backbone. Let’s hope that they find some soon.

Posted by Al Maline at June 24, 2004 9:54 PM