Michael Newdow – who last week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with the hope of the White House canceling plans for a religious invocation at the Jan. 20 presidential Inauguration, citing the separation of church and state – is not the only critic of George W. Bush.
For fighting terror in Iraq, Ralph Nader once called the president a “selected dictator.” Hartford Advocate columnist Alan Bisbort has a “sense of Bush as a despot” because the president is “a sick man.” Michael Rechtenwald of Citizens for Legitimate Government claims to have lost all of his rights (despite the fact he is a frequent user of the First Amendment) in “Bush’s prison system known as the United States of America.” Bush is a “classic Old Testament tyrant,” writes bioethicist Gerry Lower. The Bush administration “is a dictatorship,” the author Gore Vidal told an Australian TV network. And according to the mayor of London, “Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we’ve most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction.”
For all the ridiculousness with which the Left likes to portray Bush, there is some justification to their general sense of anxiety. The past century has been particularly bloody. The death toll – whether by forced starvation or concentration camp or nuclear blast or machine gun or flame-thrower or forceps, saline poison, and vacuum tubes in the case of abortion – was gruesome. Churchill said at Fulton that the events of the time had been, “the unestimated sum of human pain.”
Bush, of course, far from fulfilling the Left’s dread of abject totalitarian despotism, seems determined to avoid a repeat of the 20th century’s sanguinary aspects – hence the war on terror and his label on hope at the 2004 Republican National Convention: “Liberty’s Century.”
But now, since Bush is planning to have a prayer at his Inauguration, according to Mr. Newdow, it has ceased to be liberty’s century. For this month’s presidential swearing-in ceremony to include a religious act is George W. Bush’s worst act yet, Mr. Newdow suggests. “It is an offense of the highest magnitude that the leader of our nation – while swearing to uphold the Constitution – publicly violates that very document upon taking his oath of office.”
I would contest that more than anything Bush has done as president, and more than any other gesture that could be made at the Inauguration, the invocation of Almighty God is the surest defense against tyranny. Those who claim that Bush is a despot do so not only erroneously, but also without regard to the fact that the other thing he is loudly criticized for – his faith – is the most reassuring guard against him becoming a despot.
An atheist, whose god is himself, has no right to replace the principles of our national founding – that our rights come from God and our laws are subordinate to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” – with his own religious principles. It is one thing to have the benefits of private conscience which have their expression in the Declaration of Independence; it is quite another to impose private conscience on the whole land. Neither a Christian, who would define God by the Bible, nor an atheist who would define god as himself, has the right to rule other men by religious coercion.
It is another matter entirely to derive principles of government from a religious belief that both serves as a foundation for liberty and in so doing constrains the government from imposing a specific religion on the nation. Far from coercing Michael Newdow to worship Him – who to the founding fathers was the Supreme Ruler of the Universe – an inaugural religious expression of gratitude and invocation to the Source of American liberty will be an affirmation of Michael Newdow’s civil right to practice and preach his atheist religion. Only in America – forged and framed in the doctrines of Protestant individualism and moral self-government – has there been such a degree of ordered liberty that even Michael Newdow may have a soapbox.
What Mr. Newdow may not do is to impose his religion on America. The atheist god is the worst of gods – it has made various appearances in the late century in such countries as Russia, China, Germany, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea and other places in which my shortened list is a dishonor upon the many millions of martyrs, political prisoners and tortured victims of atheist dictators. To seek the removal from our national codes, pledges and songs the name of God, and to silence the public prayers to Him, is to demand in its place the atheist god.
The atheist god – and it is a jealous god – is not ever so jealous as the Author of Liberty. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”