U.S. Congress Sells Out Again over Pledge

State/Church Watchdog Group Asks Its Members to Protest Pledge Votes

(Madison, WI) The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemned the “shallow religious opportunism” of the U.S. Senate in passing a second unanimous resolution supporting the use of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in a little-publicized act last week.

“It is hard to believe that not one United States senator had the integrity to vote against this exercise in religious conformity,” commented Foundation president Anne Nicol Gaylor.

The Senate voted 94-0 on March 4 that it “strongly disapproves” of the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not to reconsider the ruling last summer declaring the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional. The case was brought by Michael Newdow, M.D., a California father.

The second Senate resolution followed the decision announced on Feb. 28 that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would not rehear the case en banc. The California school district has already appealed the ruling, which applies to nine states and Guam, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The unanimous vote authorized and instructed the Senate Legal Counsel “again to seek to intervene in the case to defend the constitutionality of the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge, and, if unable to intervene, to file an animus curiae brief in support of the continuing constitutionality of the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge.”

The Foundation noted how ironic it is that proposals have been introduced before both the U.S. House and Senate to amend the U.S. Constitution to permit references to a deity in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“What an admission that the addition of religion in the Pledge of Allegiance does in fact violate our secular Constitution!” Gaylor pointed out. “If a religious pledge is constitutional, the sponsors would not be supporting an amendment to alter the Constitution in order to accommodate such religious references. The Ninth Circuit was entirely correct in determining that the Constitution forbids religious litmus tests from being imposed upon a captive audience of schoolchildren.”

The Senate resolution itself lays out the secular history of the pledge, which was deliberately written without reference to religion by Baptist minister Frances Bellamy in 1892. The religious tampering with the pledge occurred only in 1954–a McCarthyesque Cold War maneuver, Gaylor noted.

U.S. Rep. Lucas, Oklahoma, introduced House Joint Resolution 26 on Feb. 27 to add an amendment to the Constitution reading:

“It is not an establishment of religion for teachers in a public school to recite, or to lead willing students in the recitation of, the following pledge: ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ “

The Senate version, Senate Resolution 7, introduced on March 3, encompasses the religious motto “In God We Trust,” reading:

“A reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance or on United States currency shall not be construed as affecting the establishment of religion under the first article of amendment in this Constitution.”

“Clearly politicians have not caught up with changing demographics showing that more than 14% of the adult population is not religious,” said Gaylor. (Religious Identification Survey 2001)

“We know those quivering towers of legislative jelly are fearful of ‘gotcha’ issues,” Gaylor added. “But it is time for the reasoning public to demand some representation, to demand that members of the U.S. Congress honor their oath of office to ‘honor and defend the U.S. Constitution,’ rather than falling in line to see who can be the fastest to eviscerate its secular guarantees.”

Gaylor said she is urging the membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to contact their members of Congress to protest these actions to betray the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.

“Nobody questions the piety or patriotism of the U.S. Senate. What we oppose is their lack of commitment to the First Amendment, and their demonstrated contempt for the separation of powers. They’re taking this vote before they’ve even read the briefs.

“They would show far more patriotism by standing up for the Establishment Clause,” said Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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