The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has sidestepped opportunities to respond to atheists’ demands that the words “under God” be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, but that apparently has in no way blunted the campaign to censor that traditional statement about the nation’s founding.
For example, a case now is pending before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that was brought by the American Humanist Society and others alleging that the words, which are recited voluntarily by students in the state’s schools, are unconstitutional.
“The left argues that the Pledge of Allegiance somehow discriminates against the godless, but fails to show evidence of said discrimination,” said the EagleRising.com blog. “What they miss is that the affirmation of God in our society is what protects the unbeliever from discrimination. If there are no moral absolutes attributable to a Righteous and Holy God, then every man should be free to do what is right in their own mind.
“This is what the left argues for without considering the consequences – without an absolute moral law one cannot judge evil. If one cannot judge evil by an absolute code, then it is left to the will of the majority to decide what is right and what is wrong. Once that happens, the rights of the minority no longer exist.”
The oral arguments in the case by a couple from Acton on behalf of their children were held Wednesday, and the opinion from the high court is expected to come sometime over the next several weeks.
In the case, David Niose, a lawyer representing the American Humanist Association, said the words in the Pledge are discriminatory even for those who do not recite it.
“The exercise itself still discriminates. It defines patriotism a certain way,” he told the justices, according to a report at Boston.com
Legal representatives for the school district being sued argued the Pledge is not mandatory, and there is no religious bias present.
Boston.com reported that Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the justices that the phrase “under God” has a long history as an expression of a “political philosophy” and is not a religious declaration.
Rassbach explained that the term has been used to restrict the power of a king and now of governments.
The couple, whose identities were withheld, started the case in 2010 claiming a violation of the state’s school anti-discrimination policies, a familiar argument. A lower court judge ruled against the atheists.
According to Becket, there have been several major challenges to the words “under God” over the past two decades.
A case launched in 2000 was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court on a technicality, sidestepping an opportunity to edit the Pledge. In two other cases, starting in 2005 and in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step in and overturn lower court decisions in favor of the words “under God.”
“After three failed attempts to strike down ‘under God’ on the federal level, atheist advocates now seek to challenge it on the state level in Acton-Boxborough, Mass.,” the organization explained.
WND has reported over recent months on several confrontations over the inclusion of God in the Pledge.
Rev. Al Sharpton appeared in a “Lean Forward” ad for his network MSNBC in which he recited some of the Pledge of Allegiance. He left “God” out, but included lesbians.
The Cape Cod Times reported Selectman Melissa Freitag excluded the entire Pledge from a council meeting and replaced it with a poem.
And when NBC omitted "under God" from the Pledge at the U.S. Open golf championship, the American Family Association urged citizens who were offended to flood the network with outrage and demand a better explanation for what it calls a "grossly unpatriotic act."
"Astonishingly, NBC edited the words 'under God' out of the Pledge not once but twice," said Tim Wildmon, president of the AFA.
Louisiana-based columnist Jeff Crouere wrote: "This was not some random mistake, but a clear signal from NBC that the words 'under God' were somehow controversial or inappropriate. Tragically, a radical agnostic or secular humanist belief permeates our television networks and our film studios."
Radio host Rush Limbaugh, a well-known golfer himself, responded to the controversy.
"For [under God] not to show up on NBC, somebody had to take it out, which is an actual physical movement or decision," he said.
"I think the lesson here for NBC is if it was an accident, they ought to learn how much this really matters to people. I don't think they really know that."
Three years ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the constitutionality of public school children reciting "under God" in the Pledge, rebuffing a prominent atheist group's attempt to stop the practice.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of two New Hampshire parents and their three children, challenging the state's School Patriot Act, which requires that public schools authorize a time for students to voluntarily participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The lawsuit alleged that the statute violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause and the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion.
In its unanimous decision, however, the court's three-judge panel ruled: "That the phrase 'under God' has some religious content … is not determinative of the New Hampshire Act's constitutionality. This is in part because the Constitution does not 'require complete separation of church and state.'
"It takes more than the presence of words with religious content to have the effect of advancing religion," the court continued. "The New Hampshire School Patriot Act's primary effect is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism through a pledge to the flag as a symbol of the nation."
There also was a controversy when a C-SPAN video surfaced of Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., leading the floor of the U.S. House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance but conspicuously going silent when the words "under God" would normally be said.
When McCollum's office was asked about the incident in 2002, her chief of staff, Bill Harper, said it was "a totally innocent accident."
WND reported three separate occasions in a little over a month when President Obama was caught deleting references to God, omitting the acknowledgement in the Declaration of Independence that the source of rights is the Creator.
Actor, author and martial arts champion Chuck Norris reports he's found seven times that Obama has omitted the reference to a "Creator."