Congressional Vote on Pledge Degrades National Debate

The Sept. 23 vote in the House of Representatives, approving legislation ostensibly protecting the words under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance from court review, shows how degraded the national debate over the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state has become.

This legislation is legally meaningless. Since 1803, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark Marbury v. Madison decision, it has been established that the Supreme Court is the arbiter of the constitutionality of acts of Congress.

Congress has already shown itself all too ready to interfere with the constitutional separation of powers between the Congress and the judiciary. The House and Senate tripped over each other in their rush to publicly repudiate the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of plaintiff Michael Newdow in the summer of 2002. Again the following year, both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly censured the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and urged the Bush Administration to fight to overturn the ruling.

Freethinkers and constitutionalists can take some comfort in the fact that the House vote was 247-173, showing that even in an election year, a significant minority of the members of the House had the integrity to dismiss this religious ploy.

Such as U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, had the supreme audacity to actually argue that the Supreme Court only has jurisdiction in cases affecting states or foreign officials! That wouldn’t make the court very “supreme.”

The intent of the vote was clearly to place the minority political party on the defense, to force a vote on a “gotcha” issue. But it is staggering that 247 members of the House could wilfully, blithely overlook our Constitution and more than 200 years of court precedent.

Isn’t it fortunate that this particular Congress is not voting on the Bill of Rights?

This statement was released by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Sept. 24, 2004.

Freedom From Religion Foundation