Hollow House Action on Pledge Reveals Enmity toward Unbelievers

Statement by the Freedom From Religion Foundation

The ludicrous vote by the House on Wednesday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance" from the purview of federal judges was all show, over one of those meaningless "gotcha" issues the Religious Right excels in promoting. In fact, it's part of a whole package known as the "American Values Agenda" championed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that included the fortunately failed vote on Tuesday regarding a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The gesture--while hostile to atheists and agnostics, exemplified by feisty litigant Michael Newdow, who is retaking his legal challenge of the addition of "under God" to our once-secular Pledge of Allegiance--rang utterly hollow.

Any attorney or reasonably well-read American knows that the bill is rogue. Congress does not have the power to remove from judicial purview constitutional issues! At least, to do so it would first have to rewrite the Constitution through a bonafide amendment process.

And Congress, which is teeming with attorneys and legal counsel, knows that fact perfectly well.

Although the House passed this fake legislation, which may or may not go on to a Senate vote, what is heartening is that the vote was 260-167. Although lopsided, that's a far cry from the near-unanimity we saw in Congress when it passed resolutions condemning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after ruling in Newdow's favor in 2002. Can freethinkers ever forget the grotesque specter, following that historic ruling, of those pusillanimous members of Congress racing outside for a pious photo-op to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and positively screaming out the words "under God"?

So while the pledge bill passed, pretty much along party lines, it was refreshing to hear Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., decry it, even if she used some religious language: "We are making an all-out assault on the Constitution of the United States which, thank God, will fail."

Sure, the fanatics got their licks in. For instance, Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., absurdly noted: "It cries out for our country to honor God."

But it is nice to see that reason still rules with at least 167 members of the House, even in an election year.

The other piece of good news is that Michael Newdow is ably taking another challenge of the religious corruption of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Ninth Circuit. The Freedom From Religion Foundation office, which is offering a friend of the court brief in the suit, has just read Mike's very fine brief. We think if anyone has a chance of prevailing, it will be Mike Newdow. Even if our current Congress has been partially shanghaied by the Religious Right, the law is on his side, and so is his persistence!

As Mike points out in the introduction of his brief, it took Americans a while to embrace decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, but Americans now finally get it and accept it. In this case, "the American people will eventually come to embrace a ruling holding the words, 'under God,' unconstitutional. And--as also was the case in Brown--the nation will be the stronger for it."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.
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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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