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Saw a blurb in the paper today that "Rev. who wanted God in Pledge dies." A pretty kewl moment was when the gadfly who didn't want his daughter* to take part in a teacher led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that endorsed God was able (rather well, helped by Scalia recusing himself) to do the oral argument himself. As to the substance of the claim, one for which he had support from various who do believe in God (e.g., those who saw it as too close to a sort of "test oath"), Newdow had a point. As noted, even if you think God is the source of our rights and/or stands over us, the means used to honor the fact can beproblematic.**
It is somewhat ironic, except to the point that special pleading is typical in this field thus the need for religious freedom and no religious tests in the first place, that one way to accept such official endorsements is to water down their significance. Justice O'Connor (with an assist from the likes of Justice Brennan, who suggested the point as a means to explain away a possibly troublesome matter) takes this approach in her concurrence. She cites his dissent in a holiday display case, one in which Justice Blackmun/Stevens added a brief dissent on how the theme dishonors the religious aspects of holidays opponents of a "War on Christmas" so fear.
If we truly honor Christ as our Lord, governmental displays might (rightly) bother some believers. This calls to mind an ad campaign referenced in one of my blogroll cites, FFRF, that led one group to proclaim:
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."
Note also the link to someone who belies the "no atheists in foxholes" line. For those who do not find this so obvious, the Rev. George Docherty's efforts might be deemed suspect. But, hopefully his long life (died on Thanksgiving Day at 97) was a happy one all the same. Though some who seem inclined toward hyperbole might think differently, it does the man a disservice to remember him for this one act (atheists not ideal Americans). This includes support of racial equality, opposition to the Vietnam War, and support for congressional restraint on an out of control President.
For such things, he probably was deemed as going against the "American ideal of life." More power to you, George.
* Custody matters led the SC to punt ... Stevens, who was on C-SPAN last night with a judicial pal for a Q&A, also wanted to punt in another family case, so this wasn't just for convenience ... even if the the right thing might have been to let the state courts deal with the matter first. The opinion amounts to much about nothing. Why spend a whole section on a statute which you ultimately find besides the point for the case in question?
CJ Rehnquist does his own tap dancing to avoid troublesome questions. "We do not know what other Members of Congress thought about the purpose of the amendment." Sure. Not that the majority is free from dubious statements. "Nothing that either Banning or the School Board has done, however, impairs Newdow’s right to instruct his daughter in his religious views." If the school led her in prayer on a daily basis, would this also not "impair" the instruction of someone who spends much less consistent time with the girl involved?
** Note how we hear of "invasion of freedom and privacy" long before the Court, in the eyes of some, first declared a "right to privacy" for the first time in Griswold v. Connecticut.