In the reddest era of McCarthy’s Red Scare 1950s, we were at a pretty high state of tensions with a communist country. Paranoia ruled the day, and it was hard to know who was a godless Commie and who wasn’t. Both sides did everything they could do to differentiate themselves from the other. Here in the United States, that in part meant adding “In God We Trust” to the money, and “Under God” to the pledge of allegiance. The reference might seem pretty generic, but it isn’t and never was; it refers specifically to the Judeo-Christian god of Abraham, Yahweh, and always has. Or, to put a finer point on it: the Yahweh of one Joseph McCarthy.
Of course, back then, nobody minded. Everybody was Christian. Or, if they weren’t, then they knew better than to open their commie mouths. These days, though, at least a few people are speaking up against this very clear violation of the First Amendment and constitutional laws “respecting any establishment of religion.”
One of them is David Niose, attorney for the atheist American Humanist Association representing an unnamed family in New Jersey. This is the second lawsuit brought against Joe McCarthy’s god in recent days; earlier in the year, a similar case came before a Massachusetts judge. That judge summarily decided that the First Amendment didn’t apply because the pledge was voluntary.
Niose says that’s just full-stop wrong. He said to NJ Superior Court Judge (and Chris Christie appointee) David Bauman that:
“Harm is occurring every day the state is invalidating the plaintiff’s religious class.”
The judge said though, that the pledge was also voluntary here, and there there was no evidence the student in this case had been “bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated” for not saying it.
Said District Attorney David Rubin, the pledge is “an innocuous reference to the deity in a ceremonial setting,” and not a religious exercise. (“THE deity”…catch that?) He also dismissed the AHA’s case as “masquerading as an equal protection case.”
During the course of questioning, Bauman did pose one interesting hypothetical: Whether substituting “Under God” with “created by great, white men” would pose grounds for discrimination suits by minorities and women. He never got a completely straight answer to that, though for our part: Possibly. But at least you could prove the white men existed.
He also asked if the New Jersey Constitution’s mention of “Almighty God” was discriminatory, and mentioned that the pledge doesn’t mention a specific god. Two quick points here:
- The state constitution is a historical document, not something that has to be recited by secular school students every day.
- The “god” mentioned in the pledge is quite specific, actually. First, “God” is singular, meaning it’s a monotheistic god. Second, Abraham’s god is the only one in history whose name is actually “God” with a big “G,” which is written and used as a proper noun in the pledge. Third, the positioning of “under” God implies that said monotheistic deity resides in the sky…again, pretty specifically Abrahamic. Quite orthodox, too — a pantheist might just as well have said “beside” or “within” God.
But, Christie appointee Bauman wasn’t about to consider any of that. He didn’t issue a ruling, but made his intent clear when he issued one shortly.
And so, the Kangaroo Kourt was adjourned.
But Niose still isn’t backing down. Of the secular pledge — recited by our Grandparents without “under God” before they landed in Normandy — he said:
“This is a state-sponsored and state-conducted exercise that happens every single day. It’s done every single day, for every student in all classrooms. It’s not like a biology lesson or a sex education class or a controversial novel a class will have to read. It’s intended to instill patriotism and to define patriotism.”
Yes, patriotism…as defined by Joe McCarthy.
H/T: Huffington Post