Archive for Saturday, July 22, 2006

Theocratic U.S.?

July 22, 2006

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To the editor:

I see the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to strip courts of jurisdiction in "Pledge of Allegiance" cases.

Four years ago, when Michael Newdow briefly prevailed in his challenge to the words "under God" in the pledge, Congress members trampled one another to get in front of cameras, defending this paradoxical tradition of non-religious religion. They claimed it was no big deal, just meaningless "ceremonial deism," while they stoked a furor at hints it might be removed. So "under God" was trivial and vitally important at the same time, a typical bit of religionist hypocrisy, in the spirit of the hysterical red-baiting that put the phrase there in 1954.

Wondering where this "tradition" left American atheists, agnostics, polytheists or theists who believe God isn't political, I wrote to 13 of our national officeholders, including the senators from Kansas and the two representatives for Lawrence, to ask: "Am I a citizen of the United States in every sense that a theistic person is, entitled to full representation, consideration and protection under the Constitution?"

A basic civics question, which should have received a simple "Yes!" in every case. Not one leader answered the question; all ignored or danced around it. Sen. Brownback even asked me to pray for our country.

Right, it's "no big deal" I know, and I mustn't let second-class citizenship dampen my pleasure at being barely tolerated in theocratic America. No danger there.

Bruce S. Springsteen,

Lawrence

Comments

Jamesaust 8 years, 9 months ago

A dangerous precedent for believers.

All of those cases over the decades where some person wished to invoke their religious beliefs - Amish, Mennonites, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Mormons - and the courts upheld that right. Now, those "rights" are up for a majority vote in the Congress. If you can't be heard by a court, you don't have "rights." This bill requires judges to put their hands over their ears whenever someone tries to make any case about the Pledge.

Where might the future steps lead? Could it be that Congress has created a precedent for a ACTUAL future "War on Christians"? Might radical atheists in 2020 take over Congress, vote to repress Christianity, and strip (in some "Armaggedon Day coup") the federal courts of authority to review the issue? Isn't this the very mechanism the Antichrist will use to destroy religious freedom?

So, to protect a symbol (for some) of religious belief Congress wishes now to undermine the protection of actual religious belief? Somehow the Republic stood before inserting "God" into the Pledge in 1952 and one would suspect that it would survive IF (an unlikely if) it were removed.

Methinks desperate politicians must be frightened of imminent accountability come November. Ostentatious patriotism and empty religiousity do not create virtue.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 9 months ago

Jamesaust wrote "If you can't be heard by a court, you don't have 'rights.'" Which is not quite true. one may very well have a right, but without the privilege of being heard in court, that right is not enforceable. Besides, in Marbury v. Madison Chief Justice Marshall wrote that the Supremes have authority to declare laws unConstitutional. Congress can put it up for majority vote, but that don't make it a legit law.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 9 months ago

Religious fundamentalism is the biggest threat to civilization, whether it be from religiously-insane mohamedans or christians.

It seems so harmless to codify xtianity as a national religion. After all, a vast majority of americans are xtian. Why can't the government represent the majority?

This view is simply ignorant of american history and precedent, whether it be simple ignorance or willful ignorance.

Beware the man of god who tells you what you want to hear.

Klickhammer 8 years, 9 months ago

Christian marketing is so good. They've got god sponsoring the United States. They must figure that getting at people when they're welling up with patriotism and pride will bring in the customers, let alone assert a little brand arrogance over us consumers. I wonder, was the placement for sale to the highest bidder -- could we be under allah, or Texaco, or Pampers -- or was it another no-bid contract? If we take the separation of church and state seriously, how could this have ever made any sense?

Klickhammer 8 years, 9 months ago

And, yes, Christians are under attack, in the very way that makes them angry and brings them to the voting booth and keeps them dependant on news. The whole premise strikes a false cord with anyone with critical thinking skills (after all, it's an insane claim, and couldn't you cherry-pick evidence to support any such claim? What about muslims? Artists? Boxers?), but it's not designed to appeal to us, anyway. It's designed as a political tool to keep the "base" actively voting, tuning into Fox, and feeling like they're losing god's America. You feel like that, you vote the party line, because there's more than just politics at stake, there's your religion too. If you've constructed your entire worldview upon such a foundation, having it threatened means you must take action to prevent it. The war on Christians is just a tool to keep political power, and it seems to be working.

Jamesaust 8 years, 9 months ago

"Besides, in Marbury v. Madison Chief Justice Marshall wrote that the Supremes have authority to declare laws unConstitutional."

No. The SC can hear two DIFFERENT types of cases. They hear directly cases involving suits between states and suits involving foreign ambassadors. Congress has no power to limit this.

EVERY other type of case they hear on appeal from a lower court. Article III, sec. 2 establishes this jurisdiction and gives CONGRESS the express power to limit that jurisdiction. This is, in part, because every federal court OTHER THAN the SC exists only because Congress creates it (which can also uncreate it).

In short, unless you are a state or a foreign ambassador, you can't get to the SC without first starting at a district court, which in turn is controlled by Congress to the extent it wishes to exert control (or pursue the relative 'hands off' approach it traditionally has).

The controversy here is that Congress has (with only the most limited, obscure exceptions) never exercised this power, working under a principle that the courts are fair, neutral arbiters that exist, in part, to protect small minorities holding unpopular positions from the wrath of the majority.

So, no - if there's no court of first instance - federal district court - to file a challenge in to begin with then it cannot be appealed to the SC. And so, the federal courts CANNOT review the constitutionality of the statute in question.

Wilbur_Nether 8 years, 9 months ago

Very good points. Well-reasoned and thoughtfully articulated, Jamesaust. Some additional considerations require attention, however. Your summary of the differences between original and appellate jurisdiction is accurate. Given, however, that a regulation on the judicial branch's capacity to review Congressional action will almost by default be taken to a lower court, appeal will be a certainty--whichever side wins--and eventually the Supremes will hear the case. Note the argument won't be over whether Congress can set rules for the Supremes, but instead will be over whether the rules set violate other elements of the Constitution. I don't see how the Congress can regulate the SC's ability to rule on what is or is not Constitutional unless the SC chooses to let it.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 9 months ago

Jamesaust,

There you go again with all of your facts and logic. When will you realize that these things don't matter. Only God and Jesus can administer true law and justice, and our legal system and government should mirror this. Sheesh.

Kelly Powell 8 years, 9 months ago

We could then allow "trial by combat" for all criminal and civil cases.....god is watching and he would never allow the guilty to win.....I'll sharpen my axe.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 9 months ago

The perversion of fundamentalist religion, xtian or mohamedan, must be stopped.

The only difference between fundamentalist xtianity and islam is that the USA and Europe have secular, moderating institutions that buffer against this religious extremism. But for how long?

prioress 8 years, 9 months ago

Remember, the pledge was written by a "socialist."
"Under god" was added in the Eisenhower era to prove were were better than the 'godless' commies. Much ado about nothing on both sides. The problems come when kids are not cooperative in their responses to the pledge. I always wonder, which god; there are many to chose from.

Jim Fisher 8 years, 9 months ago

Has anyone heard the recording of Red Skelton reciting the pledge, along with commentary? Find it, listen to it and see how you feel.

Jamesaust 8 years, 9 months ago

"Given, however, that a regulation on the judicial branch's capacity to review Congressional action will almost by default be taken to a lower court, appeal will be a certainty--whichever side wins--and eventually the Supremes will hear the case. Note the argument won't be over whether Congress can set rules for the Supremes, but instead will be over whether the rules set violate other elements of the Constitution."

I don't agree. As boring as it sounds, jurisdiction trumps all. No jurisdiction, no case, no appeal, no review. Other than the narrow set of "original jurisdiction" cases I noted, all others are subject to Congressional exclusion from the courts. Pick up almost any federal court case and right after the section discussing the facts, the court will first discuss the jurisdictional basis for their review. It is not rare for cases filed to be dismissed solely upon some jurisdictional basis.

I don't believe that there is any substantive dissent on this point in the legal community. The only discussion is on the wisdom of exercising this dormant power.

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