Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Stories about the Pledge of Allegiance case in the New York Times and in Slate both indicate that Michael Newdow did a polished job staking out his position against "under God," even drawing applause from spectators. That's remarkable enough, but this statement from Justice Souter may be more remarkable: He wonders whether the "under God" phrase has become "so tepid, so diluted ... that it should be under the constitutional radar."

That, of course, is why good Christians ought to have opposed "under God" along. Hitching the name of the deity to a rote daily recitation to promote purely secular ends belittles and undermines God. The Christian right now claims that taking God out of the classroom destroys the nation's spiritual strength. The right has it exactly backward. Putting into the minds of children an interpretation of God broad enough and bland enough to suit all religions persuades them that God can't be very important or powerful.

You can't have it both ways: If instilling faith in God is so important that it must be part of classroom work in public schools, then the First Amendment has to go. If the concept of God envisioned in the Pledge is so tepid that it is constitutionally insignificant, then why should it matter whether anyone says the phrase or not?

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