pageok
pageok
pageok
Michael Newdow Sues Over Religious Speech at Inauguration:

Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) has details, including links to the complaint and its Appendices. Newdow -- who filed the lawsuit against the use of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance -- is seeking the removal of "so help me God" from the oath to be read by Chief Justice Roberts, and exclusion of the clergy invocation and benediction. (Note that Newdow is not seeking to prohibit President-Elect Obama from saying "so help me God" in his oath.)

The lawsuit's Establishment Clause argument about the inaugural prayers is foreclosed by Marsh v. Chambers (1983), which held that legislative prayers are generally constitutionally permissible, even to the extent they may endorse religion, because of the long tradition of such prayers dating back to the same Congress that proposed the Establishment Clause.

I can't speak with equal confidence about Newdow's argument that the court should at least enjoin any prayer that focuses on a particular denomination, rather than just being generically Judeo-Christian monotheism (itself a denomination, but one that Marsh suggested was capacious enough for government work). See here for a hint of the debates in lower courts about when and whether denominationally specific prayers are constitutional, though there are many more cases on the subject than just the one I mention there. I should note, though, that Newdow's argument on this has been rejected before, in the decision rejecting his lawsuit about the 2005 inauguration. And a President's inviting a particular clergyman to say things at the President's inauguration might well be treated as an extension of the President's own right to express whatever views -- including denominationally specific views -- he wants to express as part of his own speech.

The Establishment Clause argument about the "so help me God" in the oath is likely also foreclosed by Marsh, given the long tradition of "so help me God" in oaths. (Oaths, after all, were supposed to be invocations of God, as opposed to affirmations, which were the constitutionally prescribed alternative for those who didn't want to swear to God.) There is of course a dispute about whether President Washington said "so help me God" in his oath. But it's clear that early oaths -- including the one for federal judges and Justices, plus several other examples from early Congresses -- commonly contained the phrase. The logic of Marsh would thus amply apply here.

The lawsuit's Free Exercise Clause and Religious Freedom Restoration Act arguments are foreclosed by the requirement that the government action must "substantially burden" the claimant's religious practice. Under the caselaw that has developed as to substantial burden, being offended at the government's use of religious language in a government ceremony would not qualify.

There is also the possibility that Newdow can't relitigate the matter now, because he had filed similar lawsuits over the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations; but I don't think this would bar the other plaintiffs. The plaintiffs might also lack standing to litigate this, but I doubt it, given that some of the plaintiffs claim they may be present at the inauguration. In any case, I leave those procedural questions aside here; people who are interested in them might want to read this decision about the 2005 inauguration.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Challenge To Inaugural Oath and Prayers Dismissed On Standing Grounds":
  2. Michael Newdow Sues Over Religious Speech at Inauguration:
Brian G (mail) (www):
No standing. Something Newdow is very familiar with. What injury can he show? His feelings will be hurt?

Newdow needs to go away.
12.30.2008 2:40am
neurodoc:
Those who won't be attending the inauguration might lack standing to litigate this, but those who plan to be there would have standing to do so? My answer would be if those planning to attend would have standing, then those who weren't going to attend would be equally like to have it, or rather equally unlikely.

If Dr. Newdow really has his heart set on litigating this, then I think he should first get elected president, so standing would not be an issue. But then he (or Obama) could simply decline to ask God's help, couldn't he? He is out to stop the Chief Justice from asking Obama, whose father Newdow isn't, to utter those particular words as part of the oath. I think the proverbial snowball in Hell must have a much, much better chance than this particular litigant.
12.30.2008 2:45am
Melancton Smith:
I guess because my ox isn't being gored here, but this seems like a silly thing to have such a chip on one's shoulder over.
12.30.2008 2:54am
David Schwartz (mail):
Both the 'long tradition' argument and the 'significantly burden' argument are bogus.

The long tradition argument is bogus because many things we have a long tradition of doing we at some point realized were unconstitutional. Prohibiting abortion for one thing.

The significantly burden argument is equally bogus. Objectively, having to swear on a bible is not a significant burden to anyone. It's just saying a bunch of words. Subjectively, it's pretty obvious that "under god" in a State ceremony could possibly offend Newdow's belief that government should not officially sanction such religious comments as much as swearing on a Bible offends others' beliefs that one should not swear.
12.30.2008 3:40am
Bruce_M (mail):
I agree with David re: the "long tradition" doctrine of purported constitutionality.

When you learn that you've made a mistake, and you decide to keep doing it the same way, you've made yet another mistake.

Stare decisis is one thing when you're talking about rules of evidence, hearsay exceptions, or statutory interpretation. But just because we've been violating the Constitution for a really long time is no basis for affirming the continuation of such violation.

Imagine that argument being used (and it was) to justify Jim Crow and segregation at the time of the civil rights movement - we've always violated the constitutional rights of blacks, it's long national tradition, thus it's constitutionally permissible. The Constitutioni deserves better. To allow it to be violated merely because it's been violated a certain way for a really long time makes a mockery of the rule of law.

The Constitution states what the oath of office shall be, and the words "so help me god" are not in there. If the president wants to add it himself, I wouldn't be so vain as to said he significantly deviated from the official oath of office that his oath was not fulfilled. BUT - the person reading the oath to him, e.g. the Chief Justice of the United States, should not misread the official Oath of Office from the text of the Constitution and add, sua sponte, the phrase "so help me god" even if he knows ahead of time that the President-elect will add those words himself. Why can't we just follow the constitution when it comes to religion and drugs? It's not hard.

I'd like to see Obama NOT add the words "so help me god" and just read the oath of office as it was written by the framers. Sticking "god" on our money has not helped our economy, and Bush took the oath of office with the additional "god" wording, only to have his presidency turn out to be the worst in the history of America. Clearly sucking up to imaginary dieties doesn't work. Either that, or we're sucking up to the wrong god. As such, the only reason to add "god" to the oath of office, pledge of allegiance, and money is to placate shallow, naive, biggoted, selfish, intolerant, and just plain stupid religious people.
12.30.2008 4:17am
Esquire:
I think folks miss the point about "long tradition" if they think it's somehow an argument for perpetuating a constitutional violation.

Rather, the longer the tradition, simply increases the likelihood that something is/was constitutional in the first place (at least, by any kind of originalist standard). (And citing undesirable results to prove a counter-point is never a valid argument because courts aren't the ones supposed to care about results in our system.)
12.30.2008 5:13am
Rod Blaine (mail):
Earth to Michael Newdow: When you're seriously alleging that Barck Obama is too religious, you've lost it. Go litigate some other unconstitutional injury to your person, like whether the separation of West Virginia was valid or something.
12.30.2008 5:24am
David Schwartz (mail):
Rather, the longer the tradition, simply increases the likelihood that something is/was constitutional in the first place (at least, by any kind of originalist standard). (And citing undesirable results to prove a counter-point is never a valid argument because courts aren't the ones supposed to care about results in our system.)
I don't think that's true. When the framers wrote, for example, the first amendment, they didn't mean to protect the right to what they considered free speech to be. They meant to protect the right to what free speech actually is.

This is why when new things are found to be speech, such as blogging, they are automatically protected by the first amendment.

The original intent of the "due process" clause was that any process that could be shown to actually be due one was entitled to. As standards of what process is due evolve, those new standards become protected.

This originalist standard is self-contradictory. The framers did not intend "free speech" to protect only those things they currently considered to be free speech. They did not intend "due process" to mean that process they considered due.

Similarly, the free exercise clause and establishment clauses don't prohibit what the framers felt was free exercise or would have felt was free exercise, but what in fact *is* free exercise. Because that's what a person means when he says "you have the right to free exercise". He means that if you can show something actually is free exericse, you then have the right to it.
12.30.2008 6:30am
speedwell (mail):
Annndddd the usual condescending twits are heard from. "People with possibly legitimate gripes need to get lost."

Look, think of it as if it were someone defending a trademark. Big-business trademark defenders sometimes litigate absolutely headscratching-inducing cases because they know that if they relax and generously allow the "little guy" to infringe, they let themselves in for legal pain later. You can probably think of cases where companies have lost rights to trademarks for lack of proper defense.

Newdow seems to me to be doing something like the reverse. Instead of saying someone is taking his trademark, he's saying something analogous to, "the government is illegally forcing me to call my product [the government that I participate in and that purports to represent me] by someone else's trademark." He sees (correctly) the word "God" as belonging to the sphere of religion, and official prayers to God (correctly) as being the official practice of religion, and he fails to see how the official practice of religion can be reconciled with the legal principles of separation of religion and government.

I'm not a lawyer or law student (except for being a long-time reader of law blogs and legal cases) so I'm speaking with a layman's understanding here, but it does not seem as though I need to have legal training to understand that rulings that the sort of "official religion" that is indistinguishable from what Christians would do in the political situations in question is not the "church" that the "state" needs to stay away from endorsing.
12.30.2008 6:39am
speedwell (mail):
Urgh, it's too early, I put that badly... it should say:

"...it does not seem as though I need to have legal training to understand that the rulings (that the sort of "official religion" that is indistinguishable from what Christians would do in the political situations in question is not the "church" that the "state" needs to stay away from endorsing) may in fact be errors in need of correction."
12.30.2008 6:41am
Bruce_M (mail):
Well said, David.
12.30.2008 6:54am
Brett Bellmore:
Speaking as an atheist, I've always found Newdow horribly embarassing. This sort of public religiosity is just a manifestation of the regrettable fact that the American people ARE, generally speaking, religous, and it's a relatively harmless manifestation. Why's he put so much energy into trying to get the thermometer renumbered, rather than bringing down the fever?

What an idiot he is; He's such a terrible public face for atheism, you have to wonder if he's really a mole.
12.30.2008 6:54am
J. Aldridge:
The sad thing about all this is that courts have provided plenty of inducements over the last 40 years for the Newdow's of the world to make such absurd arguments.
12.30.2008 6:58am
notaclue (mail):
Two points: (1) Seems to me the distinction between the Chief Justice reading "so help me God" and the new President saying it on his own is bogus. All the Chief Justice will do is prompt the President. If the President wants to add the phrase to the constitutionally prescribed oath, why wouldn't the Chief Justice prompt him with the previously agreed on words?

(2) I hope we never have to use at a national level the workaround my wife had to use when she served as a volunteer city police chaplain. At civic functions a chaplain had to introduce each prayer with something like this: "I'm about to pray a Christian (Jewish, Muslim) prayer. Please join me in praying however your tradition specifies." Clumsy but apparently necessary in our time.
12.30.2008 8:17am
Matt Tievsky (mail):
Brett nails it.
12.30.2008 9:08am
Gump:
My own personal anecdote:

Newdow came to my law school during his original suit and they had a forum or something for him. And he showed up in jeans and sneakers. I was impressed.
12.30.2008 9:36am
Matt P (mail):
So as a matter of law what is the status of the oath? I can't remember the actual wording being in the constitution, is the wording of the oath set by legislation or some other manner?

As long as an atheist could choose to affirm something ethically meaningful to them I don't have a problem with letting theists do the same. The key to me is understanding the oath/affirmation as the free speech of the speaker as an assurance to the nation.

At lower levels of government does anyone know of atheists being elected and choosing another form of oath/affirmation? I'd be interested to hear how it worked out.

I've never been a huge fan of political pageantry (the swim suit competition is usually horrific) but for some people it seems to be enjoyable. The oath always seems kind of pointless, someone who won't keep it won't worry about saying the oath and then doing what they want anyway.
12.30.2008 9:43am
Pragmaticist:
Some people play golf as a hobby, and some people file lawsuits...
12.30.2008 9:58am
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"legislative prayers are generally constitutionally permissible, even to the extent they may endorse religion, because of the long tradition of such prayers dating back to the same Congress that proposed the Establishment Clause"

To paraphrase Nixon: When the Framers do it, that means that it is not unconstitutional.
12.30.2008 9:59am
Bruce_M (mail):
Brett, religion is NEVER harmless. Some religiosity is just more deadly than other. But there is no such thing as benign expression of religion.

I have tremendous respect for Newdow, if for no other reason than he's putting himself in the line of fire for a good cause, making it likely that a "peace-loving, pro-life" religious person will assassinate him.
12.30.2008 10:00am
John in Dallas (mail):
Matt P: The oath is in Article II, Section I of the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
12.30.2008 10:02am
David Schwartz (mail):
To paraphrase Nixon: When the Framers do it, that means that it is not unconstitutional.
So if I could resurrect one of the framers and convince him that due process prohibited pretextual traffic stops, he would rationally reply, "too bad I didn't think about that back then"? Of course he would rationally reply, "good thing we put a requirement for due process in the Constitution, since you have convinced me that process is due, you have convinced me the Constitution requires it."

I realize you're joking, but there are people who argue that seriously. And it's 100% complete and utter nonsense. A guarantee of due process means that if you can show some process is due and you didn't get it, your rights were violated. It has nothing to do with what the framers did or might have considered due process.

Sorry I'm repeating myself, but this is perhaps the most important point I've ever tried to make in this forum.

Originalism is self-contradictory. The framers would not have said "due process means whatever process we happened to consider due at the time we wrote the Consitution". They would have said, "the due process clause entitles one to whatever process is in fact due".
12.30.2008 10:08am
Matt P (mail):
Thanks John, for some reason it just slipped my mind that it was there.
12.30.2008 10:09am
AntonK (mail):
Newdow is like thousands of other pro se litigants who stalk the courts of this nation: anti-social, psychotic, and using the courts to pound away at the demons in their heads. The more press Newdow gets, the more frantic he'll become.
12.30.2008 10:13am
pluribus:
Bruce_M:

When you learn that you've made a mistake, and you decide to keep doing it the same way, you've made yet another mistake.

Stare decisis is one thing when you're talking about rules of evidence, hearsay exceptions, or statutory interpretation. But just because we've been violating the Constitution for a really long time is no basis for affirming the continuation of such violation.

This is a good point and obviously it should be made. But I am inclined to think it begs the more important question: Have we been violating the Constitution for a long time? The Founders apparently did not think that such things as oaths and chaplains violated the Constitution. Washington was, after all, the president of the Constitutional Convention. Why isn't his practice, and that of other members of the Founding Generation, precedential? It is not obviously unconstitutional. An argument can be made that it accords quite comfortably with the First Amendment, although another argument can also be made. The Founders, however, seemed to accept the argument that this practice is constitutional. Are court decisions the only government acts worthy of being respected as precedents?

















consti
12.30.2008 10:15am
Patrick22 (mail):
The Chief Justice should read the text as it is written in the Constitution. The President-elect should say the words as they are written in the Constitution. If he ads anything on the end, that is his speech and an early start to his inaugural address ;-)

To argue from tradition or framer's intent is stupid. The framers wrote the oath, without any reference to any religion's diety. Original intent was to have the oath not contain "God".
12.30.2008 10:15am
Al Maviva:
Big-business trademark defenders sometimes litigate absolutely headscratching-inducing cases because they know that if they relax and generously allow the "little guy" to infringe, they let themselves in for legal pain later.

Absolutely. And if we don't take steps to chill public displays of religion now, there's no telling what kind of insane religious notions will get perpetrated on us by these raving over-the-top right wing Christianists like...

Oh, wait a minute. That was my rant for if McCain-Palin got elected and Newdow sued. Sorry, I don't have anything prepared for Barack Obama, much less Obama inviting Rick Warren to play Chaplain-for-a-Day. Um, I suppose I support the hell out of it and think we should have a lot more of it.
12.30.2008 10:19am
Patrick22 (mail):
The Founders, however, seemed to accept the argument that this practice is constitutional.



Then why did they include the wording in the Constitution without any refence to a diety?

If the wording of the oath was not in the Constitution, then all these arguments about what Adams did, or Monroe, or tradition, might make sense. But the oath is in there, and the Chief Justice is adding in religious speech that the framers never intended. What else can the chief justice change?

The fact that the framers included "swear (or affirm)", says to me they were going out of their way to make it religion neutral; since some religions of the day had a proscription against swearing.
12.30.2008 10:21am
Mike Hansberry:
Esquire,


I think folks miss the point about "long tradition" if they think it's somehow an argument for perpetuating a constitutional violation.


You are spot on. In this case, not only can one find a long tradition of asking for God's blessing, the tradition spans the entire history of the nation from the Declaration to the present day. That the tradition was continued even in legislative acts seeking to forbid governmental establishments of religion ought to inform a reasonable person that it does not violate the constitution.

Would Mr Newdou argue with a straight face that Jefferson's Virgina Act For Religious Freedom, which ensured religious freedom and forbade the establishment of religion, is itself a violation of the Establishment Clause because it states that almighty God is the source of our rights? Would he argue that Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance is likewise unconstitutional because it states "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence" ? If Jefferson is not to be relied on for the meaning of the establishment clause, what then of the "Wall of Separation" doctrine?
12.30.2008 10:51am
Sarcastro (www):
It's almost as though Newdow is relying on something other than Founder's intent for his Constitutional argument! How crazy!

We should deny his right to petition AND to play in any reindeer games!
12.30.2008 11:00am
Yankev (mail):

Brett, religion is NEVER harmless. Some religiosity is just more deadly than other. But there is no such thing as benign expression of religion.


Which would seem to require doing away with all oaths, given that oaths are by definition an invocation of G-d, whether or not named in the oath. Instead, we have a lawsuit to prevent someone adding 4 words that make the nature of the oath more specific.

Yep, letting someone say the word "G-d" while taking the oath of office breaks your bones and picks your pocket, and if Jefferson had thougt harder about it, the First Amendment would have clarified that such a thing constitutes an establishment of religion.

the only reason to add "god" to the oath of office, pledge of allegiance, and money is to placate shallow, naive, biggoted, selfish, intolerant, and just plain stupid religious people
Folks, this stuff just satirizes itself.
12.30.2008 11:00am
MarkField (mail):
While I'm in agreement that the phrase "so help me God" forms no part of the oath, I think that very fact undercuts any legal argument Newdow might have. Adding the words is voluntary; the President doesn't need to say them (nor to place his hand on the Bible). The fact that he chooses to do so doesn't make this a governmental action, but a private gesture. Similarly, the inauguration is not an offical government action in the same way that a session of Congress is. I don't think Marsh v. Chambers is the answer, I think that Newdow in this case is trying to interfere with Obama's free exercise of religion.
12.30.2008 11:09am
Sarcastro (www):
technology is NEVER harmless. Some technology is just more deadly than other.

But there is no such thing as benign expression of science.

Good thing Newdow picked his battles.
12.30.2008 11:12am
Bad (mail) (www):
Law utterly aside, I wonder if people could agree that the situation would be simply be better if government ceremonies simply left out religious elements. Why should a civil office claim any special religious trapping for what it does? Why should their ceremonial pledges appeal to a superbeing, when they are supposed to be pledged to the principles of the constitution and the people? Their office is supposed to be an mundane mechanism that serves the people. It's the people who have the right and freedom to choose when and how and if to pray and for what. We'll decide whether or not God will help you, thanks.

People sarcastically complain about "Obamamessiah," but most of these same people seem completely happy for Presidents in general to put on a show invoking God's blessings and insight into what is supposed to be a job that we the people hired them to do. Which, last time I checked, did not involve us electing a laity, given that we already have the power to choose our own.
12.30.2008 11:14am
Thales (mail) (www):
I have to say that I've never found "the First/an early Congress thought it was constitutional" arguments, of which the Marsh opinion is just one, to be persuasive in the slightest. An early Congress also passed the Alien and Sedition Acts--if certain portions of these did not violate the First Amendment, then it's difficult to imagine what restrictions on speech would. Why should we deem early Congresses incapable of acting unconstitutionally?

Eugene, do you find these arguments to be generally persuasive or helpful?
12.30.2008 11:16am
Sarcastro (www):
The Founders didn't intend the result in Marbury.

That decision was the begining of the end for America.
12.30.2008 11:26am
loki13 (mail):
Sarcastro,

I take it you're not being sarcastic. Would you care to explain this? Do you mean that-

a- The founder meant for the exceptions clause to allow for this to happen?

b- The judiciary act was written properly (being written by the Founders and all)?

c- The Founders never meant for their to be judicial review?
12.30.2008 11:37am
pluribus:
Esquire:

I think folks miss the point about "long tradition" if they think it's somehow an argument for perpetuating a constitutional violation.

Point well made. Stated otherwise, a "long tradition" (particularly one that began with the Founding Generation) is an argument that a particular practice is not a constitutional violation.

Thales:

I have to say that I've never found "the First/an early Congress thought it was constitutional" arguments, of which the Marsh opinion is just one, to be persuasive in the slightest. An early Congress also passed the Alien and Sedition Acts--if certain portions of these did not violate the First Amendment, then it's difficult to imagine what restrictions on speech would. Why should we deem early Congresses incapable of acting unconstitutionally

Nobody is arguing that early Congresses were "incapable of acting unconstitutionally." It is fallacious to argue that everything the Founding Generation did must have been either constitutional or unconstitutional. In fact, some of the things they did were quite constitutional and some were pretty clearly unconstitutional. A strong argument can be made that the Alien and Sedition Act violated the free speech and free press clauses of the First Amendment. Just that argument was made at the time, by Jefferson and others. The Alien and Sedition Act was, for starters, an "act of Congress." What "act of Congress" is implicated when the chief justice and the president-elect add the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath? Further, the Alien and Sedition Act did not become a "long tradition," but was widely reviled and repealed after a short span.
12.30.2008 12:00pm
PubliusFL:
Patrick22: The fact that the framers included "swear (or affirm)", says to me they were going out of their way to make it religion neutral; since some religions of the day had a proscription against swearing.

You miss the point of why some religions had a proscription against swearing. In the 18th century, to "swear" an "oath" was to invoke God. That's what swearing an oath meant, and what makes the difference between "swear" and "affirm."

The fact that the Constitution included "swear" and not just "affirm" takes some force from the argument that a constitutional oath must be strictly non-religious. In historical context, a non-religious oath was an oxymoron.
12.30.2008 12:01pm
Bruce_M (mail):
Yankev: No, you can affirm, rather than swear to god. That's always an option as it is. "Do you swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth..." As I was saying, the presidential oath as written in the constitution makes no mention of god(s). An oath is not "by definition an invokation of god." It's just meant to remind the person taking the oath that there will be consequences if they breach their promise. If you personally are reminded of pissing off god, then so be it. But that's because you're so extremely affected/infected by religion that you are afraid to even type the word "god" without putting a dash across the letter 'o' - like the creator of the universe is watching your keyboard and will strike you with a bolt of lightning for writing the noun that describes him/her/it. Were you to inadvertently type god without the dash, the next bad thing that happens to you, whether today, tomorrow, or next week, you'll correlate that negative event to your typo as divine retribution. Yes I think it's horrendously silly, but my primary point is that you're the type of person who sees god in everything and assumes everything, everywhere, for everyone has some basis in god/religion.

I don't blame you though, it's not your fault. Just like with being homosexual, being religious is not a choice. You're born that way. Both religion and homosexuality are mental disorders. Hopefully one day scientists will find cures for both conditions, though the only danger in being a homosexual is from people who are religious, ironically enough. But just because one mental disorder affects 95% of the population doesn't mean we should violate the constitution to appease them since only 5% of the population will be bothered. We're not a democracy, we're a republic. Majority does not rule - the framers were very clear that pure democracy, where 51% of the plebiscite always gets its way, is a horrible evil and this country was never set up to be such a system. Read Federalist 10 for starters.

Jefferson wrote in a letter to Reverend Samuel Miller on January 23, 1808, in response to Miller's proposal that he "recommend" a national day of fasting and prayer: "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from inter meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises...Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. ...But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from...civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."[3] [4]
12.30.2008 12:03pm
pluribus:
loki, why assume that Sarcastro is not being sarcastic? Doesn't a leopard have spots?
12.30.2008 12:03pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"What "act of Congress" is implicated when the chief justice and the president-elect add the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath?"

Where did I discuss this? I was talking about the Marsh v. Chambers decision.
12.30.2008 12:07pm
Sarcastro (www):
[loki13 I actually wrote a paper that touched on this issue in law school.

My understanding is that the idea of the judiciary as the final arbiter of Constitutionality was a surprise to Jefferson et al.

The original expectation was that each branch would independently obey the Constitution co-equally, with no branch seen as more competent in that office than any other. Hence the "least dangerous branch" of Hamilton.

Then Chief Justice Marshall comes along and re-aligns the whole shooting match.]
12.30.2008 12:08pm
pluribus:
Bruce_M:

Both religion and homosexuality are mental disorders.

What a bargain. I come to VC to learn something about the law and am treated to profound psychiatric insights along the way. And all at no extra charge.
12.30.2008 12:08pm
pluribus:
I asked:

"What "act of Congress" is implicated when the chief justice and the president-elect add the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath?"

Thales replied:

Where did I discuss this? I was talking about the Marsh v. Chambers decision.

Apparently forgetting that he had just written:

I have to say that I've never found "the First/an early Congress thought it was constitutional" arguments, of which the Marsh opinion is just one, to be persuasive in the slightest. An early Congress also passed the Alien and Sedition Acts--if certain portions of these did not violate the First Amendment, then it's difficult to imagine what restrictions on speech would. Why should we deem early Congresses incapable of acting unconstitutionally?
12.30.2008 12:15pm
pluribus:
Sarcastro:
[. . . Then Chief Justice Marshall comes along and re-aligns the whole shooting match.]
Not according to Philip Hamburger.
12.30.2008 12:19pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Pluribus:

I'm discussing the merits of a style of argument in constitutional law, one made in Marsh v. Chambers and mentioned in Eugene's post. I haven't forgotten anything and I don't understand why you think I have.
12.30.2008 12:20pm
someone:
Sir, Mr. Bruce_M,

would you like a napkin to wipe the froth off your mouth?
12.30.2008 12:25pm
Cardozo'd (www):
There have been a bevy of cases that have come before the Supreme Court regarding such religious terms being used in secular instances. There was the case of Elk Grove v.Newdow, which sought to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, but the Supreme Court determined that the Pledge had such strong secular meaning, and tradition stands. Just as our currency says "In God We Trust", some states permit the display of the Ten Commandments in courthouses, and Christmas Trees are permitted to be displayed in public spaces - the main objective of the government action has to be one that neither promotes nor inhibits religion. This is both to protect our government from religious interference, and also to protect our religion from government tarnishment. I am not at all surprised that this case is being brought, religion and government are something that we all hold strong views about, regardless of whether you really believe in either.
12.30.2008 12:26pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Hamburger may be delicous, but Richard Posner disagrees.]
12.30.2008 12:27pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):

I'd like to see Obama NOT add the words "so help me god" and just read the oath of office as it was written by the framers.


Eek! Can you imagine the uproar. Talk radio would have a field day! It would prove the suspicion / contention that Big O is NOT an American.

Personally I could care less if the Prez says it or not. But, if memory swerves (which it does often) the "So help me God" bit in the swearing in was added by Mr. George Washington himself, so Newdow is going up against the man.

When the Constitution was written and ratified, only one man was seriously considered "the guy" that would be President, G-Wash, based on the accepted judgment that, of all the revolutionaries, he was the most virtuous and respected of them all.

Here is another unconstitutional bit that someone should sue over. The function of the senior staff as a cabinet or counsel for the President was all Washington. The Constitutional Convention apparently rejected the formal creation of just such a body. So should that also be done away with?

I'm definitely not a lawyer (do I get the "understatement of the year" award?) but I don't see how Newdow's complaint would stand since the phrase is not actually required by law, and is voluntary.

PS.

The Founders didn't intend the result in Marbury.

That decision was the begining of the end for America.


Sarcastro, that was very Jeffersonian of you. He HATED Marbury. But, TTBOMK, he did not try to advance an amendment to try and undo judicial review.
12.30.2008 12:29pm
pluribus:
Thales:

I haven't forgotten anything and I don't understand why you think I have.

When you discuss Congress and, after I include a reference to an act of Congress in my reply, ask "where did I discuss this," the thought just oozes up. Let's not get into a "you said this," "no I didn't" argument. It bores the hell out of me, and other posters, too. If anybody has the slightest interest in what you or I said, there is a clear black and white record they can refer to above.
12.30.2008 12:45pm
Wahoowa:
Ugh. This guy has become nothing more than an atheist gadfly.
12.30.2008 12:45pm
Sarcastro (www):
sonicfrog has found me out. I am Thomas Jefferson's sock puppet!

*whew* feels good to get that off my chest.
12.30.2008 12:51pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
Ha. I knew it!!!!
12.30.2008 1:01pm
ReaderY:
"Religion is never harmless"


The arguments in this forum on the lines of "everyone knows religion is evil, therefore it must be stopped, therefore the framers must have intended to stop it, and if they didn't reasonable people ought to interpret their words to imply they did anyway" pretty mush summarizes (not satirizes, unfortunately, but summarizes) Newdow's argument. Of course the Framers intended no such thing. It's not unreasonable to point out the long history, beginning with the Framers, indicating this.

The Establishment Clause was, as Brennan himself pointed out in his classic argument against originalism, was a compromise between religious liberals and conservatives that was intended to simultaneously protect religious establishments from the Newdows of this world and to safeguard rights individual religious practice, by combining an Establishment Clause which actually protected state religious establishments from liberals in the Federal government by prohibiting Congress from abolishing or tampering with them, and a Free Exercise intended to provide a measure of protection to individuals from government — but only to the extent that public displays of religiousity interfere with an individual's own religious practice. And simply being offended by other people's beliefs wasn't intended to qualify as interference.

The elephant in the room about all this is that the replacement of O'Conner with Alito, who has a long history as a lower-court judge of construing Supreme Court precedents in favor of religious practice, may well mean that a 5-4 majority on religion issues, with O'Conner as the focal point, that has managed to exist on the Supreme Court four more than 2 decades may well be replaced with a new 5-4 majority going substantially the other way. The Allegheny County case of 2 decades ago is a particular example: O'Conner supported a bare 5-member majority who gave Marsh v. Chambers its present narrow reading.

This case won't reach the Supreme Court for the simple reason that all the issues have been litigated to death many times before and upheld under the O'Conner reading of Marsh, and nothing is happening worth the Supreme Court's time. But people who want to file these types of lawsuits should be aware we're likely on the cusp of a new 5-member conservative majority, and a new regime on religion issues willing to give a much more expansive view of Marsh — basically a general rule that public displays of religiosity that are ecumenical within the "Judeo-Christian tradition" don't violate the Establishment clause if no-one is coerced into worshipping because of a long general tradition of such displays, to replace the existing case-by-case regime where defenders of each specific kind of public religious display have to show a specific tradition of such displays in each specific context.
12.30.2008 1:02pm
MarkField (mail):

My understanding is that the idea of the judiciary as the final arbiter of Constitutionality was a surprise to Jefferson et al.


This is kind of off topic, but Jefferson did expect the courts to enforce the boundaries of the Constitution, whenever it was in his interest. For example, on March 15, 1789, he wrote to Madison and said, “In the arguments in favor of a declaration of rights, you omit one which has great weight with me, the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary. This is a body, which if rendered independent, and kept strictly to their own department, merits great confidence for their learning and integrity.” He also supported a constitutional challenge to the taxing power (Ware v. Hylton). When the Court opted for a broad construction of the N&P clause (McCulloch), Jefferson complained that it failed thereby to restrict Congress to its Constitutional limits. He also, as you said, took the position that the President could judge constitutionality just as the Court could (and as Congress could). In short, he was all over the map.


But, if memory swerves (which it does often) the "So help me God" bit in the swearing in was added by Mr. George Washington himself


The good thing is, you don't need to rely on memory. Prof. Volokh helpfully provided a link to that dispute in the post.
12.30.2008 1:07pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
There was the case of Elk Grove v.Newdow, which sought to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, but the Supreme Court determined that the Pledge had such strong secular meaning, and tradition stands.


Didn't the court dismiss that because they determined Newdow didn't have standing, and was not the legal guardian of his daughter? I don't think they made comment on strong secular meaning or nay other facet of the case.
12.30.2008 1:09pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
As a religious believer, do I have standing to get the courts to order atheists to shut up in public?

No?

Then why should atheists have standing to tell believers to shut up in public?

We have something in this country called "majority rule," which means that if you are not in the majority, and you are not being materially harmed, etc., that you have to grin and bear what the majority decides to do. I have no problem with this principle, even though I am usually in the minority. Why don't crybabies like Newdow grow up?
12.30.2008 1:10pm
Patrick22 (mail):
I'm definitely not a lawyer (do I get the "understatement of the year" award?) but I don't see how Newdow's complaint would stand since the phrase is not actually required by law, and is voluntary.



Newdow is not suing over the President-elect saying it. His point is that the Chief Justice is saying it. Since the Chief Justice is doing the work of the government at the ceremony, he shouldn't be adding his personal religious views to the text.

Beyond the Inauguration, there are many Federal jobs and many need an oath. Are the officials at these oaths also adding the religious baggage? Isn't every recruit in the military and every immigrant required to say an oath, is "God" included? Then we get back to the Pledge of Allegiance, which is where Newdow comes from.


There was the case of Elk Grove v.Newdow, which sought to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, but the Supreme Court determined that the Pledge had such strong secular meaning, and tradition stands.


Actually, I believe the SCOTUS determined Newdow did not have standing and thus dismised the case. The idea that they decided the case based on tradition is wrong afaik.
12.30.2008 1:13pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Pluribus:

What I did not discuss was the situation "when the chief justice and the president-elect add the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath." That is the "this" I referred to. I never claimed that such individual speech would be an act of Congress in my discussion of Marsh, since I didn't discuss such speech at all.
12.30.2008 1:15pm
Bruce_M (mail):
The original intent of the establishment clause can be discerned though the writings of the mostly deist framers of the Constitution, or Christian supreme court judges appointed by Christian presidents who have authored opinions interpreting the Establishment Clause so as to please Christians.

I find the former to be more instructive.

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites" –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus."

"The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves...these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ."

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors." –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

"Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies."

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

- Thomas Jefferson

Similar quotes can be found by Franklin, Madison, and other framers of the Constitution. And spare me the "all of the framers were devout christians and those quotes are taken out of context" crap. You may wish they were taken out of context, and you may wish the Constitution was written by a coven of born again evangelical Christians, but that doesn't make it so.

Meanwhile Scalia and Thomas disagree, despite calling themselves "originalists"....
12.30.2008 1:16pm
PubliusFL:
Bruce_M: An oath is not "by definition an invokation of god." It's just meant to remind the person taking the oath that there will be consequences if they breach their promise.

No? Then what is the difference between an "oath" and an "affirmation"? Some contemporary dictionaries might shed a little light on the question:

Webster's 1817 Dictionary:

oath: A solemn affirmation, with an appeal to God for its truth

Royal Standard English Dictionary, 1788 (published in America):

oath: solemn appeal to heaven

Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson, 1799:

oath - an affirmation, negation, or promise, corroborated by the attestation of the Divine Being.

There you have it. The difference between an "oath" and an "affirmation" is that the former is "corroborated by the attestation of the Divine Being." When you swear an oath, you are acknowledging that God is your witness and will hold you accountable for the truth of your declaration. At least, that is how it was understood in the late 18th century.
12.30.2008 1:22pm
ReaderY:
It's worth remembering the Framers were as divided a lot as we were. Folks like Thomas Jefferson had strong views against public religious establishments and displays, but folks like Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were much more favoring and/or tolerant of them. People who favor a more tolerant view of religion displays today can pick phrases out of their favorite framer's correspondence to match Jefferson's "wall of separation" phrase. The Clauses were a compromise between various forces.

I believe their general quality as a compromise, where one side does not take all and each side manages to live with the other despite their differences, remains highly relevant today. We are just as divided now as we were then. Trying to read these clauses as embodying and authorizing ones own personal views is a natural human tendency, but it doesn't get at what the framers were really going for.

We might today want a somewhat different compromise than the Framers did. But the idea of a negotiated compromise, where different sides talk to each other, give a little, and reach a modus viviendi that neither is really happy with but nonetheless manages to imperfectly work, is better than a regime where a small number of authority figures overrepresented a limited class of society claim to embody the country's ideals and make rigid decisions based on their view of them.

We have only to look at overseas to Turkey to see what such a way of doing things can lead to. The Framers did not intend us to be like Turkey. They intended a more flexible society where new views through considered dialogue among a broader segment of society was possible. They did not intend to create a set of dogmas overseen by a set of moral guardians, except in unusual cases that all parties had agreed to -- they never intended the agreements reached to be thought of as interpretable to cover all difficult social questions and all aspects of life, but only limited to specific circumstances.

They also intended a society much more tolerant of religion than Turkey now is.
12.30.2008 1:30pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
On Washington and the oath:

The good thing is, you don't need to rely on memory. Prof. Volokh helpfully provided a link to that dispute in the post.


Yeah, it would help if I read the entire post!

Still, the talkers would use that regardless of the debate or the historical accuracy.
12.30.2008 1:39pm
ReaderY:
Benjamin Franklin's view continues to strike me as having a lot to commend it. Franklin was highly unorthodox in his personal beliefs, liberal (and libertine) in his practices, and generally regarded as open-minded and tolerant. But he also thought well of religion, conscious of its variety, and encouraged displays of public religiousity (including a call for prayer during the Constitutional Convention) as a way of reminding people of the solemnity and seriousness of their tasks. He argued that a good society would welcome religion rather than fear it.

His pleasant compromise between the extremes of religious and anti-religious crusades, recognizing that religion has both much good and much imperfection in it, as all things, continues to strike me as preferable to the other alternatives.
12.30.2008 1:47pm
loki13 (mail):
Sarcastro,

Just rejoined. Darned headache and stuffy nose. Anyway . . .

1. Glad to see I can tell when you're not being sarcastic. Bracket would be more helpful.

2. For once I'm not going to threadjack. So my final word on this is the following- while your statement (that the three branches would interpret the Const.) it does not logically follow that the Court should not strike down unconstitutional legislation. I think there is ample historical precedent for this; while it is clear that Marshall got to the result he wanted to by a creative reading, I think the power he invoked was not very controversial and there was no move to restrict the Court's power (cf. Chisolm). The interpretation follows mainly within the sphere of the article (final arbiter over Art. I = Congress, Art. II = Executive etc.) and that each branch should judge constitutionality as it sees fit (the Exec. should veto legis. he sees as uncons.). Checks and balances, yada yada yada.
12.30.2008 1:50pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):

Webster's 1817 Dictionary:

oath: A solemn affirmation, with an appeal to God for its truth

Royal Standard English Dictionary, 1788 (published in America):

oath: solemn appeal to heaven


I don't have access to the dictionaries listed above, but, in a modern dictionary, you will find three or four definitions given for a word. Would this also be true for the examples listed above? Are there more than one definition of the term "oath' in these books?
12.30.2008 1:53pm
David Drake:
It's important to keep in mind in these discussions of the intent of the Framers that (a) the Bill of Rights was not part of the original Constitution that the Framers framed and (b) that Thomas Jefferson was neither a Framer nor a drafter of the Bill of Rights, although James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, was familiar with and in agreement with Jefferson's political philosophy.
12.30.2008 2:11pm
PubliusFL:
sonicfrog:

The full text of all of those dictionaries is available via Google Books. So you can double-check me, but my recollection is that the definitions I provided were the only definitions of "oath" given in each of the dictionaries.
12.30.2008 2:33pm
wfjag:
Michael Newdow -- the first named plaintiff in the suit and the first attorney signing the Complaint.

I guess Mikey has never heard of Abraham Lincoln. "An attorney who represents himself has . . ."
12.30.2008 2:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
This I'm sure is an unconfirmed or bogus quotation:

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

- Thomas Jefferson

And this one might be: "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies."

Jefferson actually took a more nuanced position. I think he did believe all religions had "fable" and "mythological" elements to them (he would term them "corruptions"), but that they all also, at heart taught the same truth as Christianity, and consequently were "good."
12.30.2008 2:55pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Re what Jefferson et al. believed, I came to this study more sympathetic to the secular side. And I'm not saying I can defend the soundness of their theory, but, they (including Jefferson):

1) thought of themselves as "Christians,"

2) but rejected the fundamentals of Christianity as taught by the orthodox (i.e., who are today represented by groups like evangelicals, fundamentalists, and devout Roman Catholics who come together on Christianity's historic understanding of orthodoxy, i.e., the Nicene Creed) who really wouldn't consider their system, if they understood what the Founding Fathers really believed, "Christianity," and

3) thought "religion" in general was a good thing, that all religions taught at heart the same truth. They tended to see "religion" in general in light of what was useful, rational, i.e., that which promoted republican virtue, and cast off those central tenets of strict orthodoxy that made each religion (especially Christianity) a "narrow path." So they rejected things like one must accept Christ to be saved, that Christianity is true, other religions are false, that Christ is the only way to God. But they embraced the notion that society should be "religious in general" because a religious citizenry is preferable to an irreligious one. Here's a quotation of Jefferson's that I think perfectly captures this sentiment (and this isn't, I would argue, Jefferson's position only, but J. Adams, Madison, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton would agree with the following 100%):


“Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas. In the first they all agree. All forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness &ca. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, and happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, and metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, and unimportant to the legitimate objects of society. Yet these are the questions on which have hung the bitter schisms of Nazarenes, Socinians, Arians, Athanasians in former times, and now of Trinitarians, Unitarians, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers &c. Among the Mahometans we are told that thousands fell victims to the dispute whether the first or second toe of Mahomet was longest; and what blood, how many human lives have the words ‘this do in remembrance of me’ cost the Christian world!…We see good men in all religions, and as many in one as another. It is then a matter of principle with me to avoid disturbing the tranquility of others by the expression of any opinion on the [unimportant points] innocent questions on which we schismatize, and think it enough to hold fast to those moral precepts which are of the essence of Christianity, and of all other religions.”

– Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, Sept. 27, 1809
12.30.2008 3:10pm
D Palmer (mail):
First, this issue is a quark in the matter of all issues: so small you can't see it without an electron microscope.

That said, I have no problem with "So help me God" as (a)it's not a part of the official oath and (b) the President choosing to say it is not an attempt to establish a State religion.

"Under God" in the Pledge is a different matter. The placement of those two words clearly says that the the Judeo Christian faith is the religion of the USA. THAT amounts to an attempt at establishment and is thus unconstitutional.

I have never read a reasonable explanation as to why these two, seemingly innocuous words aren't unconstitutional.
12.30.2008 4:20pm
pluribus:
Thales:

What I did not discuss was the situation "when the chief justice and the president-elect add the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath."

Gee, Thales, did you happen to notice that this is precisely what this thread is about?

Eugene Volokh:

Newdow — who filed the lawsuit against the use of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance — is seeking the removal of "so help me God" from the oath to be read by Chief Justice Roberts.

Forgive me if I thought you were discussing the same subject as the rest of us. Just for laughs, what subject is it that you are discussing?
12.30.2008 4:26pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
As Newdow will find himself before the court again, the the return of his case regarding "under God", I suspect this case may play a part in preparing himself and perhaps is his preparing the court for his "under God" arguments.

In any event, I think these cases are important because it gives the court a chance to more clearly define their interpretation of the law. Regardless of the out come, as least some portion of this empassioned debate will be settled and the divisive debate might lesson a bit.
12.30.2008 5:28pm
Patrick22 (mail):

That said, I have no problem with "So help me God" as (a)it's not a part of the official oath and (b) the President choosing to say it is not an attempt to establish a State religion.


Nobody has a problem with that part, not even Newdow. It is the Chief Justice saying it, that is the problem.
12.30.2008 5:43pm
notaclue (mail):
Patrick22:

"Nobody has a problem with that part [Obama saying the words], not even Newdow. It is the Chief Justice saying it, that is the problem."

Back to my earlier pearl of wisdom, which no other commenter picked up on: The Chief Justice will act only as a prompter. If the new President chose to add "so help me Krishna" or anything else, the Chief Justice would simply help him through the form of the oath he previously chose.
12.30.2008 5:49pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Newdow's argument is the Chief Justice shouldn't prompt. If Obama wants to add "SHMG," he should be free to do so w/o the CJ's prompt. On policy grounds I think this position is correct; I'm just not sure that it's constitutionally mandated. Though Newdow does have constitutional EC case law to call upon.
12.30.2008 5:57pm
Simon Dodd (mail) (www):
Everyone seems overeager to get to the merits. It seems to me that the Chief has until January 21st to answer (assuming he was served today), and the case becomes moot on January 20th. So what's the problem? The Chief need only timely serve his answer and this whole mess will go away for four years.
12.30.2008 6:01pm
notaclue (mail):
Thanks for the clarification, Jon Rowe. This is why I'm not a lawyer. It amazes me that it might be unconstitutional for the Chief Justice simply to remind the new President of the words he (the new President) chose.
12.30.2008 6:06pm
Patrick22 (mail):

It amazes me that it might be unconstitutional for the Chief Justice simply to remind the new President of the words he (the new President) chose.


I'm not sure where you are getting the idea that this is a wedding vow or something that Obama writes for himself. There is specific language in the Constitution that the Chief Justice has to say. All Obama has to do is agree. If you want the oath to include a reference to god, then amend the constitution.

What I find funny is that all of Prof. Volokh's post is about case history and never even mentions that the oath is specified in the constitution.
12.30.2008 6:26pm
notaclue (mail):
Touche, Patrick22. Now you have me visualizing Obama reading a sentimental pledge of love to the nation: "You're everything to me." I'm out; see you guys later.
12.30.2008 6:34pm
Simon Dodd (mail) (www):
Patrick22: there's specific language in the Constitution that the President has to say, but Article II doesn't even require the Chief Justice to be there, let alone to say anything. "The President[,] ... [b]efore he enter on the execution of his office, [] shall take the following oath or affirmation" etc.
12.30.2008 6:37pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Pluribus writes:

"Forgive me if I thought you were discussing the same subject as the rest of us. Just for laughs, what subject is it that you are discussing?"

Basic reading comprehension skills indicate that I wrote about (and criticized) the rationale of Marsh v. Chambers, which was only part of EV's original post (and thus topical). I did not apply the Marsh case to Newdow's lawsuit (as EV did) or take a position on Newdow's lawsuit or whether there is an act of Congress involved in the taking or administration of the presidential oath.

It would be nice if we could all, as a general matter, be a little more charitable in our interpretation of others' words and not assume they are being evasive or making bad faith arguments.
12.30.2008 7:08pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
Simon, good point.

Legally, what is the difference between swear an oath like "SHMG" and prayer at a football game between two public schools, which was deemed to be unconstitutional?
12.30.2008 7:08pm
Yankev (mail):

like the creator of the universe is watching your keyboard and will strike you with a bolt of lightning for writing the noun that describes him/her/it. Were you to inadvertently type god without the dash, the next bad thing that happens to you, whether today, tomorrow, or next week, you'll correlate that negative event to your typo as divine retribution.
Bruce_M, I have met many thoughtful atheists. I have met others who, never having progressed beyond the most childish form of religion, rejected the idea of religion and assume that anyone who aspires to religious beliefs must perforce hold to an equally childish form of religion. How sad.

Don't feel too badly, though; I have encountered similar attitudes among those who profess a belief in G-d but don't see why they should let such a belief inconvenience them or shape their actions.

Still chuckling, though, over your claim that atheists are so much more tolerant than religious folk. Thanks again for the good laugh; I needed it.
12.30.2008 7:31pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Good to have things to blog about. Send Newdow some love.
12.30.2008 8:19pm
Steffan (mail):
Then why did they include the wording in the Constitution without any refence to a diety?

If the wording of the oath was not in the Constitution, then all these arguments about what Adams did, or Monroe, or tradition, might make sense. But the oath is in there, and the Chief Justice is adding in religious speech that the framers never intended. What else can the chief justice change?


Not all of the founding fathers (aka the Dead White Guys) shared the same faith. Jefferson's faith was not even close to Franklin's, and Washington's faith was pretty much anathema to the freethinker Thomas Paine.

Atheists who need to take an oath have the option of saying "I affirm." The religious "So help me God" is always optional.

The President's oath is the only one enshrined in the Constitution, and the chief justice will consult with the president-elect before the inauguration to settle what form of the oath will be used. The Vice-President swears the same oath that every other Federal civilian employee takes. Defending the Constitution is the only non-negotiable phrase in either oath.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.


I have taken that oath more than once in my life, and I will live and die by it. Newdow can bite me.
12.30.2008 10:30pm
pluribus:
Thales:

It would be nice if we could all, as a general matter, be a little more charitable in our interpretation of others' words and not assume they are being evasive or making bad faith arguments.

It would be nice if we could discuss the topic at hand without denying we are discussing it, and without accusing others of assuming that we are being evasive or making bad faith arguments when they simply assume that we are discussing it--as, in fact, of course, we are.
12.30.2008 10:41pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
No, you can affirm, rather than swear to god. That's always an option as it is. "Do you swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth..." As I was saying, the presidential oath as written in the constitution makes no mention of god(s). An oath is not "by definition an invokation of god." It's just meant to remind the person taking the oath that there will be consequences if they breach their promise.
No; that's an affirmation. An oath is by definition an invocation of God. That's why the distinction exists.
If you personally are reminded of pissing off god, then so be it. But that's because you're so extremely affected/infected by religion that you are afraid to even type the word "god" without putting a dash across the letter 'o' - like the creator of the universe is watching your keyboard and will strike you with a bolt of lightning for writing the noun that describes him/her/it. Were you to inadvertently type god without the dash, the next bad thing that happens to you, whether today, tomorrow, or next week, you'll correlate that negative event to your typo as divine retribution. Yes I think it's horrendously silly,
And I think you are, for speaking when you don't know what you're talking about. AFAIK, only Jews substitute the "-" for the "o," and they certainly don't do so because they are "afraid" or because of some belief that it's bad luck to write the word or that there will be divine retribution for doing so. There's nothing wrong with writing the word in Judaism. Not doing so is a prophylactic device. (There are many in Judaism, just as in the Court's fifth amendment jurisprudence.)
12.31.2008 12:13am
ReaderY:

Legally, what is the difference between swear an oath like "SHMG" and prayer at a football game between two public schools, which was deemed to be unconstitutional?


There's a big difference. And because Justice Kennedy has regularly voted both for upholding religion displays and striking down school prayer actions, Kennedy will likely ensure the distinction will be maintained and may well be the person who articulates the reasoning for the difference.

The basic difference, as I understand Justice Kennedy's view, is that adults shouldn't be expected to feel particularly coerced by a religious display in a general situation, and the fact that the display is on public as opposed to private land doesn't really change how it actually affects people. However, in a school situation (and a prison situation, which also gets special Religion Clause jurisprudence) people are being coerced into attending. In addition, children (and prisoners) are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to the state's message in a way ordinary adults aren't, in part because children are children but also because the state judges them on their conduct and their futures depend on its judgement.

Because I believe Kennedy will likely be the 5th vote of any new 5-vote majority, I believe he will likely become the new swing vote a la O'Conner, and hence his lines and disinctions will likely become the Court's new lines and distinctions on this issue.
12.31.2008 12:47am
Rod Blaine (mail):
(apologies to Barry Goldwater:)

"They told me if I voted for Sarah Palin, America would become a theocracy. I did, and it has."
12.31.2008 7:02am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Jefferson's faith was not even close to Franklin's, and Washington's....

Paine was the strict Deist outlier. I disagree that Jefferson's faith differed from Franklin's or Washington's in any meaningful sense. They were agreed on the theological basics. They all believed in an active personal God (hence were not strict deists); none seemed to have any personal regard for orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. All believed that the purpose of religion was to make men moral (not necessarily to lead men to Christ), and that men were saved through their good works as opposed to grace.
12.31.2008 10:24am
LBColorado:
ARE YOU PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR MIND - TAKE GOD OUT AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE? WHERE IS YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY? IF YOU DON'T WANT GOD THEN DON'T INVITE HIM IN YOUR LIFE - BUT LEAVE THE COUNTRY'S FREEDOMS ALONE. WITHOUT GOD - THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE YOU.
12.31.2008 12:50pm
RjZ (mail) (www):
It seems reasonable to me that adding references to God to a formal, government sanctioned act as swearing in is in violation of the establishment clause.

It further seems reasonable to conclude that precedent has already established that that this particular act is an insufficiently significant violation.

Further, much as I personally would be happy for this case to succeed, and I do, in fact, feel alienated in a society where LB Colorado can scream in all caps that if I don't invite "Him in your life" then "without god, there are people like you," implication fairly obvious: "out of your mind." It's not a stretch that Newdow's claim of burden is legitimate. The problem is whether it is substantial enough.

LBColorado may be a nasty, narrow minded person, but his apparent small mindedness isn't burdening me enough to sue him.
12.31.2008 1:27pm
Lazareus:
It's very frustrating to see people dismiss Newdow's efforts as "silly".
As a parent, if your lovesick teenager writes the name of some teen idol all over the walls of your house, would you accept that your objections are "silly"?
Someone who recognizes god as a fairy tale is perfectly right to object having our political leaders spout their dependence on him. I hired Obama to do the job, not some skyfairy, and if Obama thinks he can't do the job without "Him", then he should just step down.

*********
an·ti·no·mi·an·ism (ăn'tĭ-nō'mē-ə-nĭz'əm) pronunciation
n.

1. Theology. The doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.
*********

I know people that believe in the above. Does anyone find it comforting? I think that the existence of such an idea provides plenty of justification for the efforts of non-believers to rid our political discourse of any reliance upon religion or it's doctrines. People can split legal hairs all they like, the legal system of this country was designed to provide equal freedoms and equal rule of law for all people. As soon as religious dogma enters the equation all bets are off for everyone except the group who get to interpret the dogma.
Grow up people, that's just wrong.
12.31.2008 1:40pm
Honesty:
Let's say this lawsuit does go through and they revoke the words "So help you God". Sure atheists feel better knowing that religion is no longer worded into the speech. However, what about those of us who do believe in God? Should we voice out now that we are the ones being alienated? Maybe we should file a lawsuit too! The road goes both ways here. It's sad to know that because someone disagrees with something that they have to resort to lawsuits. Is it just me, or is everything this country was built on being stripped away?

I did not realize that this country was so divided because of religion. In my eyes, this "God" issue has been so thrown around with total disregard to all religions. The Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, has never been scrutinized until a few years back. By taking away "Under God" we punish those who are believers. If we leave it as is, then we punish those who are not believers. Why not just leave it as is and have the option whether or not to say it? Same thing goes for this inaugural speach. If the president is religious, then the option to say "so help you God?" should be theirs to make. Especially since it is their swear-in, not the people's. When an atheist is elected president, let them decided at that time not to say it. Don't sit here and tell me Newdow's efforts are for the best. They really aren't because all he is doing is looking out for the atheist group and no one else. It's people like this that have to find fault with anything and everything. It's people like this that will never allow our country to be united. Compromise is the only answer.
12.31.2008 2:10pm
Lazareus:
LBColorado:
Yes, indeedy, without g-d, you get fine folks like us atheists.

"TAKE GOD OUT AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE?"

Well, first, you might get a country that doesn't fill up it's prisons with the flower of it's youth who choose to replace that life destroying toxin alchohol with a harmless weed.

Next, you might get a country that can do important life-saving medical research without running afoul of ridiculous ideas like a few stem cells having a "soul".

Then, you could maybe get a country that is both properly informed and equipped to prevent sexually transmitted disease.

Oh, and then you could maybe have people able to make sensible decisions about parenthood, and population control.

Gosh, we could maybe even have a society in which there are no riots in our streets over non-issues like sexual orientation.

Yeah, we could have all kinds of good things, if we'd just "TAKE GOD OUT".

Alternatively, we could leave g-d in, and keep the caps-locking trolls.
12.31.2008 2:20pm
Shri (mail) (www):
I agree with Lazareus, the founding fathers of America precisely wanted God as a person out of the constitution and only wanted the morals from religious teachings in it. There is no book greater than the American Constitution, even the Bible is full of fairy tales and fake stories and make believe ancient nomadic beliefs.

As it is Christianity murdered the Great Greco-Roman civilization and Islam ruined half the oriental beliefs based on intolerant monotheism. Now after 200 years since the smart people founded a state separate from the Church, the citizens of America want to ruin their own future by endorsing the Church/Religion.. that is the biggest blasphemy against your motherland folks...
If at all someone should swear an oath it should be the American Constitution and not consider anything greater than that! Read what Jefferson, Franklin or Washington wrote and read, you dont see them taking blessings from pontiffs, ministers or priests !!! Why do you want the new president to ?
12.31.2008 2:23pm
D Palmer (mail):
Honesty,

The suit is not to prohibit Obama from ending with "So help me God" it is to stop the Chief Justice from adding it.

The difference is subtle, but important. If Obama were to add it on his own, then that would be an expression of his faith which I would support.

However, when the Chief Justice makes it a part of the offial oath (which it is not), that is saying that the power of the President is via the grace of the Judeo Christian God, not the choices of the People.

That idea, which was part of the justification of the monarchy, is what the founders were trying to get away from.

Keep God in your heart, let the bible's teachings guide your life, celebrate your faith, but keep it out of the official government policies and oaths.
12.31.2008 2:32pm
ELITESQUID_USN (mail):
I think all of you liberal athiests should move to Canada. This country was founded by Christians, defended by Christians, the majority of the people are Christians, so if hearing "God" in the oath, or pledge, and seeing it on the currencey offends you , or hurts your feelings, or makes you uncomfortable, then leave. If its that big of a deal to you LEAVE for crying out loud. The majority wants it. Thats the truth, like it or not.
12.31.2008 2:34pm
SteveInVA (mail):
Good! It's about time somebody did something about that. We're supposed to have separation of church and state in this country, yet religious people always try to force their ignorant nonsense on everybody. I'm glad he's trying to do something about it.
12.31.2008 2:35pm
Tiffany Benitez (mail):
Wake up Newdow! You are not a minority. Look at this country. Look at how people are! You might be a minority among those who admit or claim to be "atheists" but I would bargain that you are not the minority among "unbelievers." I would estimate that at least half of everyone who claims to believe in God are not true believers. A believer is someone who believes that Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and because of that believe you desire to live a lifestyle pleasing to God. The definition of a 'believer' has been distorted. You cannot be a believer and continue to go about your sinful lifestyle. I pray with all of my heart that God will open your eyes to the Truth before it is too late!

Matthew 7:13-14
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

John 20:29
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
12.31.2008 2:54pm
LBColorado:
Elitesquid_USN - I agree. Call me narrow minded, but to be honest I JUST DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST. I don't believe humans can be left alone to do what is RIGHT..... Sorry - see you in the end or NOT...
12.31.2008 2:59pm
Lazareus:
ELITESQUID_USN has demonstrated both a remarkable lack of knowledge of history, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the constitution and it's unique role in establishing a workable set of precepts upon which a functioning society can be based.
There is an excellent article in the NYTimes that discusses the long evolution of the idea of "separation of church and state". You'll be surprised to learn that the idea did not originate here. You won't be surprised to learn what a struggle that idea had in taking root, but you should see that by the time it really did take hold everyone was so tired of and disillusioned by the interminable fighting over religious dogma that it was recognized as the only true way forward for society.
See: The Politics of God

It's a sad irony that the separation of church and state has allowed religion to flourish unchallenged for so long now that believers have by and large forgotten the wars and injustices that resulted from mixing the two. We atheists feel a strong responsibility to point that out. You believers may not like hearing that "it's for your own good", but that doesn't make it not true.

Seriously, before harboring ridiculous ideas like throwing people out of their own country for disagreeing with you, how about learning what has happened to societies in the past that failed to separate fairy tales from real and practical ways in which communities can interact?
12.31.2008 3:06pm
Lazareus:
LBColorado:
" I don't believe humans can be left alone to do what is RIGHT..... "

Apparently you also lack the faith to be a human, because those of us without your kind of faith have been doing just fine without it for a very long time.
12.31.2008 3:13pm
whit:

I think all of you liberal athiests should move to Canada. This country was founded by Christians, defended by Christians, the majority of the people are Christians,


yea. but then their just substituting one god for another. i'd rather worship god than hockey.
12.31.2008 3:15pm
LBColorado:
Lazareus:

What about the people that have stood on their faith and have soured above and beyond anything they could have imagined. What about the freedom that you have to even say what you say - it is what we (Christians) call FREE WILL. In the world that we live in right now, I don't know how you even get up in the morning - to live in a world without hope that when you (man) has done all it knows - what then? I know you will no doubt flip out on this comment, but what can I say - it is what it is and I guess we will just have to wait and see.
12.31.2008 3:26pm
whit:

"separation of church and state". You'll be surprised to learn that the idea did not originate here. You won't be surprised to learn what a struggle that idea had in taking root, but you should see that by the time it really did take hold everyone was so tired of and disillusioned by the interminable fighting over religious dogma that it was recognized as the only true way forward for society.


then maybe the founders should have seen fit to INCLUDE "the seperation of church and state" in the actual constitution. it aint there.

similarly, there is no "right to privacy" mentioned. my STATE constitution recognizes one, but pretending it exists in the federal constitution does not make it so.

if "the seperation of church and state" was recognized as "the only true way forward for society, then why was it not mentioned in the constitution?

and fwiw, our society has done pretty frigging well so far.



It's a sad irony that the separation of church and state has allowed religion to flourish unchallenged for so long now that believers have by and large forgotten the wars and injustices that resulted from mixing the two. We atheists feel a strong responsibility to point that out. You believers may not like hearing that "it's for your own good", but that doesn't make it not true.



you are seriously claiming the religion has flourished "unchallenged?"

are you kidding me? there are plenty of challenges to religion (broadly) and to various religions in the media, books, public speakers, court actions, etc. yet, it continues to flourish in the freest nation on earth. maybe that's a coincidence, maybe not.

the claim that religion has flourished unchallenged is simply not supported by evidence. the first part is correct. it has flourished. the unchallenged part is the one that makes no sense.

how many decades ago did Time magazine for pete's sake have their god/dead cover?

there is more freedom to challenge religion, and religious dogma in this country than any country i am aware of (many country's "hate speech" laws make it problematic to get really nasty and hateful towards religion, but it's easily done here - see Piss Christ or any # of other examples).

for pete's sake, who is stopping you, or anybody else from challenging religion? nobody.

challenge, for example, islam in england and you run afoul of the law (the example of the person proselytizing in a majority muslim neighborhood being hassled by the cops for instance).

you are free to challenge religion as much as you want in this country. but despite the challenges, we remain a nation of believers.

all your disparaging language aside "fairy tales" etc., your premise is simply bogus. nobody's freedom to challenge religion is suppressed in this country. heck, in many quarters it's "worshipped" as "edgy", when in fact it's quite easy to challenge christianity, especially. challenges to religion are met with opposing speech, which is what the first amendment is REALLY about - the right of opposing viewpoints to state their case.

you just seem to be whining that despite all the challenging of religion, this nation remains overwhelmingly a nation of believers, who CHOOSE to believe. choice. it's what's for dinner
12.31.2008 3:29pm
Steve H:
I completely agree with Newdow that the Chief Justice of the United States has no business directing any American citizen to ask for God's help, no matter what job he is undertaking.

But this is a very silly lawsuit, which appears to be an attempt to get attention rather than accomplish anything.

So how about this compromise: The Chief Justice can prompt Obama to say "So help me God," but we dock the Chief's pay for the two seconds it takes him to do so. Then, it's just John Roberts doing the prompting, as a private citizen, and there's no constitutional issue.
12.31.2008 3:29pm
LBColorado:
You are absolutely right, that is why there was a saviour sent, he is for people like me and even you.
12.31.2008 3:30pm
LBColorado:
Steve H

If we have a president who does not want God's help - what kind of a president would he be? Chief Justice, Commander and Chief blah blah blah - GOD IS IN CONTROL LIKE IT OR NOT.
12.31.2008 3:34pm
whit:

believers have by and large forgotten the wars and injustices that resulted from mixing the two.


oh, and nobody has forgotten this stuff. hollywood, the media, and self-righteous types point this claim out constantly.

what they fail to point out very frequently is that in the 20th century, the first century where there were plenty of examples of officially atheist regimes (most were communist, and religion was viewed as an enemy of the state and in many cases forbidden by law), we saw no shortage of mass pogroms, imprisonment, forced starvation, and murder committed by atheist regimes, in many cases against religious people BECAUSE of their beliefs and all in the cause of forwarding (godless) communism.

the majority of govt. sponsored murder (especially of its own citizens) in the last century was not done because of "the mixing the two" but was done by officially and militantly atheist regimes.

now you can argue that it wasn't the atheist aspect of these regimes that caused them to be murderous scum. but then the same argument could be made about religious regimes, in that man will find an excuse to subjugate, invade, oppress, murder, rape, enslave, etc. and since most people and regimes WERE religious prior to the 20th century, it's natural that this would be the excuse.

atheism did not stop pol pot, stalin, etc. from doing bad stuff.

so blaming religion for the bad things men do is pretty absurd.
12.31.2008 3:37pm
Steve H:

Steve H

If we have a president who does not want God's help - what kind of a president would he be? Chief Justice, Commander and Chief blah blah blah - GOD IS IN CONTROL LIKE IT OR NOT.



Hey, if Obama wants God's help, that's fine. Just as long as Obama doesn't think that the answers he comes up with are actually God's answers.

But Obama can decide for himself whether to ask for God's help. It is not appropriate for the Chief Justice to prompt him to do so.

And if God is in control like it or not, then I don't see how the Chief Justice's prompting or Obama's asking are going to make a difference anyway.
12.31.2008 3:40pm
John Gabriel (mail) (www):
Newdow is a hero. Too bad because most of humanity is foolish and incapable of recognizing the importance of Newdow's efforts.

Unfortunately superstition(religion) trumps the United States constitution. I am a confirmed agnostic. I believe in a creator but am not so sure it/she/he can be called 'God'. However, if I ever meet my creator and she/he/it is praiseworthy, then I'll decide whether or not I will worship. Till then, I heap scorn and ridicule on all religious fools. Which of these idiots has one infinitesimal proof that the creator is good and worthy of worship? I want to vomit when they so hypocritically worship their god and disregard all other people.

Wish I had been the Roman guard on duty when jesus christ was crucified - I would have made this sorry cult leader regret the day he started to deceive humanity. He was a common Jew who fooled the world and continues to do so until this day.
12.31.2008 3:51pm
whit:
it does not surprise me at all that the most hateful, intolerant, derisive posts on this thread are from professed atheists/agnostics, as in the above.

i do not doubt for a second that there are plenty of non-hateful, tolerant atheists and agnostics. it's just that threads like this just bring out the extremists.

it makes clear the point that hate, intolerance, self-satisfied smugness, and self-righteousness etc. can be present in non-believers as well.

in fact, those things seem to be largely independant of religious belief or lack thereof.
12.31.2008 3:56pm
LBColorado:
Words actually do matter - words are what your saying and what I am saying. Do we matter? Is what we say going to matter - it does. When you compliment someone does it matter? When you scream in anger does it matter - it does. And it affects some of us right the very core of our soul/being.

Even if you are not a believer, spilling out words of encouragement are uplifting to humans. So WORDS do matter.
12.31.2008 3:56pm
whit:

Words actually do matter


courtesy of the violent femmes "add it up":

Words to memorize, words hypnotize
Words make my mouth exercise.
Words all fail the magic prize
Nothing I can say when I'm in your thighs
Oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
City's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce
Sayin' oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
The city's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce
I've given you a decision to make
Things to lose, things to take
Just as she's about ready to cut it up
She says
Wait a minute honey I'm gonna add it up
12.31.2008 4:00pm
Lazareus:
Poor Whit:

Now you demonstrate your poor command of the english language. That, or that you simply haven't read the Constitution. A bad move for someone who wants to argue about it.


then maybe the founders should have seen fit to INCLUDE "the seperation of church and state" in the actual constitution. it aint there.


It is there, just not embodied in that particular phrase. The phrase itself came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the "Danbury Baptists", in which he reassures them that the 4th amendment specifically provided a "wall of separation" protecting them from government interference in the practice of their religion.
Your post demonstrated that you can't be bothered to look at provided references, but here's one anyway, in case someone else is interested in dispelling ignorance.
Jefferson's Wall of Separation letter


similarly, there is no "right to privacy" mentioned. my STATE constitution recognizes one, but pretending it exists in the federal constitution does not make it so.


I never said anything about "right to privacy" but thanks for making for me the point that your state's constitution recognizes that not all of the "inalienable rights" of men are spelled out in so many words in the Federal Constitution, and that it's nonetheless worthwhile to recognize them.


the claim that religion has flourished unchallenged is simply not supported by evidence. the first part is correct. it has flourished. the unchallenged part is the one that makes no sense.

You have a pretty shallow notion of what constitutes "challenge". I would say that my characterization of your imaginary friend as a "fairy tale" hardly makes the cut.


"there is more freedom to challenge religion, and religious dogma in this country than any country i am aware of"

That is the natural result of that built-in separation of church and state you are trying to deny. And thank goodness for it.


"when in fact it's quite easy to challenge christianity, especially."

You got me there. No one finds it easier than me to challenge the blind assumptions of religious dogma of all kinds, not just yours.

As to your notion of believers and choice, how much of a choice is it, really, when generations of deluded people train their kids that Santa Claus won't come if they don't believe in Baby Jesus? By the time they learn the truth, that Santa never really does come, it's too late apparently for many to recognize the other truth. That Jesus is never coming back either, for reasons that are obvious to the non-deluded.
Call it whining if you like, but I don't plan to stop pointing out the fallacy of depending on a supernatural being to make a difference in the real world.
12.31.2008 4:16pm
Vincent Horne (mail):
This is my first time on this blog but I must say I am completely disgusted by some the comments about Michael Newdow.
First, how many of you actually know Michael?
Well, I live in Elk Grove CA where he filed his suit against the school district. I have spoken to him and conversed by email several times. My opinion is he is a literate, caring person who is dedicated to a cause he firmly believes in. (is that wrong?)
For posters to this blog to throw insults at him and calls for denying him HIS constitutional right because one disagrees with him is simply childish.
Second, I take issue with religion being benign. Every time I hear how harmless religion is, I think of September 11. On that day thousands of Americans were murdered by religions people trying to impose their beliefs on others.
Also worth considering is the Catholic Church's Spanish Inquisition.
I am sorry (to those who cannot accept a different opinion) but I cannot accept that morality comes from religion. I feel, rather that religion is basis of intolerence and hatred.
12.31.2008 4:18pm
whit:

is there, just not embodied in that particular phrase. The phrase itself came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the "Danbury Baptists", in which he reassures them that the 4th amendment specifically provided a "wall of separation" protecting them from government interference in the practice of their religion.
Your post demonstrated that you can't be bothered to look at provided references, but here's one anyway, in case someone else is interested in dispelling ignorance.
Jefferson's Wall of Separation letter



i'm well aware of where the phrase comes from . the point stands. it isn't IN THE CONSTITUTION.

nothing you said disputes that. there are all kinds of phrases and statements about speech, religion, gun rights, etc. in letters and correspondence that did not make their way into the constitution.

point stands.

hth



I never said anything about "right to privacy" but thanks for making for me the point that your state's constitution recognizes that not all of the "inalienable rights" of men are spelled out in so many words in the Federal Constitution, and that it's nonetheless worthwhile to recognize them.


not at all. it would be groovy if there WAS a right to privacy in the federal constitution. but there isn't. there is a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. all the judicial activism aside, those are NOT the same things.

we are free to amend the constitution to include a "right to privacy". that's how it works in a country where rule of law matters.

LEO's in my state are thus much more restricted in search and seizure BECAUSE our state occupants enjoy a right to privacy. but it doesn't EXIST in the federal const.

it is not ok to pretend that there is a right to privacy in the federal const. any more than it is ok to pretend there is a "seperation of church and state" in the constitution.

neither is true.

point stands.

hth


You have a pretty shallow notion of what constitutes "challenge". I would say that my characterization of your imaginary friend as a "fairy tale" hardly makes the cut.


your hubris aside, believe it or not, there are plenty of OTHER people who have challenged religion besides yourself.

some , like christopher hitchens and dawkins do a pretty decent job.


That is the natural result of that built-in separation of church and state you are trying to deny. And thank goodness for it


i'm not "trying to deny" it. i'm telling you it is NOT A PART OF THE CONSTITUTION.

feel free to attempt to amend the constitution to include such a concept. but it isn't there.


You got me there. No one finds it easier than me to challenge the blind assumptions of religious dogma of all kinds, not just yours.


don't assume. you are assuming i have a religious dogma. iow, you are assuming *i* am a theist.

which is an unsupported assumption.

i can argue these points independant of a belief in god or a disbelief. i have never stated i believe in god. the fact that you cannot seperate an argument for religious freedom from a belief in god shows yer prejudice.


As to your notion of believers and choice, how much of a choice is it, really, when generations of deluded people train their kids that Santa Claus won't come if they don't believe in Baby Jesus? By the time they learn the truth, that Santa never really does come, it's too late apparently for many to recognize the other truth. That Jesus is never coming back either, for reasons that are obvious to the non-deluded.
Call it whining if you like, but I don't plan to stop pointing out the fallacy of depending on a supernatural being to make a difference in the real world.



assuming jesus even existed in the first place (the historical record is spotty, your post is just as "faith based" as a believers would be.

iow, you KNOW it's "obvious" and "the truth" that jesus is never coming back.

when in fact, you have no way of knowing this, except through a religious belief.

how ironic, alanis
12.31.2008 4:26pm
whit:

My opinion is he is a literate, caring person who is dedicated to a cause he firmly believes in. (is that wrong?)



a literate caring person who used his child (whom he did not have primary custody and thus standign was the issue in the previous case iirc) as a pawn to forward his political agenda?

iow, using your child as a pawn to forward a political agenda is not a sign of a "caring person". it's a sign of a selfish person.



I am sorry (to those who cannot accept a different opinion) but I cannot accept that morality comes from religion. I feel, rather that religion is basis of intolerence and hatred.



it is certainly common to be a-religous (atheist, agnostic, etc.) and be moral.

otoh, arguing that religion is the basis of intolerance and hatred is absurd.

was stalin intolerant and hateful? how about Mao? pol pot?

none of these people needed religion to be intolerant or hateful.

the argument that religion is the BASIS for intolerance and hatred is absurd. there are plenty of tolerant loving people who are religious, and plenty who aren't.

it is clearly neither sufficient nor necessary for hatred and intolerance to exist.

i was not aware the USSR was tolerant and non-hateful.

after all, it was an atheist regime, but did quite well at murder, imprisonment, etc. without that pesky religion to guide it.
12.31.2008 4:30pm
New Mexico Al (mail):
Some responses, even from atheists, consider the law suit to be frivolous. I do not. The law suit is symbolic, just as Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus is symbolic. We need to break the mind-set that America is only for God-fearing people and atheists are second-class citizens (or as George H.W. Bush contends, not citizens at all). Yes, we atheists can be intolerant, but we do not act like the country belongs to us and few of us would argue that religion itself should be abolished. We simply deplore the assumption that all good Americans must be religious and we deplore this assumption remaining implicit in the official language of our government. We work here, we pay our taxes, we fight our wars, and we have loving families like everyone else. Separation of church and state is the only way all personal beliefs (including the belief that there is no God) are accepted by America on the same footing.
12.31.2008 4:30pm
whit:

Some responses, even from atheists, consider the law suit to be frivolous. I do not. The law suit is symbolic, just as Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus is symbolic. We need to break the mind-set that America is only for God-fearing people and atheists are second-class citizens (or as George H.W. Bush contends, not citizens at all). Yes, we atheists can be intolerant, but we do not act like the country belongs to us and few of us would argue that religion itself should be abolished. We simply deplore the assumption that all good Americans must be religious and we deplore this assumption remaining implicit in the official language of our government. We work here, we pay our taxes, we fight our wars, and we have loving families like everyone else. Separation of church and state is the only way all personal beliefs (including the belief that there is no God) are accepted by America on the same footing.



1) stop saying "we". you most definitely do not speak for all atheists. claiming to know what "we" atheists stand for is incredibly arrogant and imprecise. all atheists do not stand for the same thing, have the same goals, or have the same opinion about this lawsuit, or about case law and religion in general.

2) i wasn't aware that lawsuits were good at "breaking mind-sets".

and if seperation of church and state is what;s needed, then fight to amend the constitution to include a requirement for seperation of church and state. that would actually be relying on rule of law. novel concept that.
12.31.2008 4:35pm
Lazareus:
John Gabriel:

Please don't feed the trolls. These people are not idiots or fools. They are our countrymen, however much they have bought into the force fed delusions of their parents and their parents before them.
It's one thing to snicker at them for folding their hands and talking to themselves when they get nervous, and to resist their efforts to make us join them.
It's quite another thing to say stuff like:

Wish I had been the Roman guard on duty when jesus christ was crucified - I would have made this sorry cult leader regret the day he started to deceive humanity. He was a common Jew who fooled the world and continues to do so until this day.

That just justifies them in their contention that we are hateful.
And besides, on the whole, I consider that if even half of what we know about Jesus is true, he was probably a pretty cool guy. If only he had not bound his worthwhile message up with a bunch of nonsense about heavenly gates that we might make it to one day....
12.31.2008 4:38pm
whit:

That just justifies them in their contention that we are hateful.



again, what's this "we" crap.

SOME atheists are hateful. some aren't. some theists are. some aren't.

fwiw, i'm more concerned with who is RIGHT than who is "hateful".
12.31.2008 4:47pm
New Mexico Al (mail):
Ok, sorry about the "we". Take it as "me". And as for the other comment, yes law suits are effective and have been used to break mind sets.
12.31.2008 4:56pm
whit:
new mexico, i'll concede yer second point, and accept yer apology on the first.

when people state their personal beliefs as representative of all of a group, it irks me.

i've seen a lot of that in the whole obama/warran brouhaha where some people attempt to speak for "the gay" on this issue as if their viewpoint about warren is the viewpoint of all "the gay", which is absurd.

so, cheers
12.31.2008 5:00pm
Lazareus:

fwiw, i'm more concerned with who is RIGHT than who is "hateful".


I'm beginning to think that you are more concerned about proving yourself right, than you are about getting anywhere with this discussion. If you can not recognize that the same thing can be said in more than one way - IE: the 4th amendment, and the phrase "separation of church and state" - then it seems that the use of language cannot dissuade your opinion. Words apparently mean only what you intend them to mean. Which, it's fair to say, constitutes a brand of "religious dogma" whether you are a theist or not.

The "we crap" is intended to signal my intention to move the discussion from the individual to the group. To refer to ONE person as hateful as a result of his own actions is free speech. To characterize a GROUP of people as hateful as a result of the actions of an individual is bigotry. You appear to be intelligent enough to have worked that much out for yourself. Have you also considered why you seem to be so reluctant to be included in anyone else's group?

If you have a goal here, other than to be contentious, I, for one, would appreciate your simply stating it.
12.31.2008 5:23pm
whit:

you can not recognize that the same thing can be said in more than one way - IE: the 4th amendment, and the phrase "separation of church and state" - then it seems that the use of language cannot dissuade your opinion. Words apparently mean only what you intend them to mean. Which, it's fair to say, constitutes a brand of "religious dogma" whether you are a theist or not.



except it's not the same thing. "freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures" does not mean the same thing as "right to privacy".

the 1st amendment (read it), does not mean "seperation of church and state".

if you want to invent things in the constitution that aren't there, that's YOUR dogma speaking.

i prefer to recognize the constitution we have, hope for changes to make it better, but respect it as it is.

others prefer to twist the meaning and pretend it says things it doesn't in order to promote their religious, or political agenda. maybe, it would make for better policy if our constitution required a 'seperation of church and state'. that's great, but the constitution DOESN'T

try reading it.

my goal is to speak truth, and speak precisely.

your goal apparently is to belittle people by talking about their "force fed delusions", etc.

as for the constitution, i suggest you sit down and read it. go ahead.

that way you can understand what it says, not what you think it says about 'seperation of church and state' (which again, may be GREAT policy, but darn it... they didn't make it part of the constitution and instead said something different), or 'privacy' (which again, does not exist as a right under the federal constitution, although it does under many states' constitutions).

rule of law matters. inventing constitutional precepts sux though
12.31.2008 5:43pm
LEVIATHON (mail):
1.3 to 1.5 million abortions a year , would almost make you believe that there is no god , but it just makes me believe that there are millions of godless individuals on this planet . This is what people call being progressive in the USA , if this is true than i'll just degress thank you!!! Athiest's are just bitter people who hate thier lot in life and believe people of faith and hope are to blame . If you live with no hope of life after death than you equate yourself with invertebrates and single cell life forms , which is your right . That philosophy of life is very sad indeed for I believe we are given life for a higher purpose than to just be born , live and die . I believe in GOD THE SON,GOD THE FATHER , AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.... life is a gift , a present from above ,cherish it, for we are only given one here on earth !!!! GOD BLESS
12.31.2008 6:02pm
God Lover:
Newdow needs to go away ... this country was founded and based and created on the concept of "One Nation Under God" and the "So help me God" and the "In God we trust" ... the reason this country exists is because we (Christians/Catholics) wanted to live in a place where God was recognized as the supreme Being. That's what propelled us to risk life and limb on the ships that brought us to the United States. We survived the plagues, the disease, the corruption, the bullying tactics, not to mention the danger and fear of venturing far from what we once called home. If you don't like how it is here do what we did - GO SOMEPLACE ELSE!! We fought and sacrificed too damn much to live in the United States and to build it as a God loving nation. If you don't like it go buy a freakin island where you and your misguided fool bullies can fulfill you desire to live a life of antagonistic dissrespect.
12.31.2008 6:38pm
Lazareus:

as for the constitution, i suggest you sit down and read it. go ahead.

I have, but I did confuse the 4th amendment as being the one containing the establishment clause, so I apologize for having introduced that element of confusion.


my goal is to speak truth, and speak precisely.

Thank you for that. That's a goal I share, and can commend you for. Although I don't quite see how such a goal would involve you so deeply in this particular discussion. How is that goal furthered in a debate over whether or not Obama should say SHMG in the inaugural ceremony? Those of us who object would be justified in doing so regardless of the content of the Constitution. (I don't mind whether you answer this question or not, my point at issue with you lies elsewhere)


your goal apparently is to belittle people by talking about their "force fed delusions", etc.

You can only call me "belittling people" if:
a) they are not deluded.
b) they don't have that delusion handed to them in childhood by the parents they must trust.
AND:
it's somehow different when political leaders get up on stage and invoke a deity that I don't believe in.
Until you can prove all three propositions, I'm only calling a spade by it's proper name. If my use of those terms shocks people into examining their point of view a little more closely, good. If it just pisses people off, well, that also sounds fair to me. I have after all, spent my life looking at "God this" and "God that" doodled all over my country's billboards, radio, television, and yes, LAWS. B.S. is B.S. no matter how fond people are of it.

So, getting back to the actual point at issue with you, you are still wrong about the wall of separation, despite that phrase's nonappearance in the actual language of the first amendment. Perhaps the difference in our opinions can be found in what you think that phrase means. Is it Justice Scalia's "bulldozer" or is it more finely tuned than that?
I don't advocate the bulldozer, but I don't think we need to be so gentle as to allow our elected officials to endorse propositions (such as God, and the universal authority of religion) that have no basis in fact.

Oh, yes, I can't let this slide:

assuming jesus even existed in the first place (the historical record is spotty, your post is just as "faith based" as a believers would be.

I was making reference to the fact that the believers are still waiting for him, despite his having said to a crowd that he would return within the lifetime of those standing near. That that has not happened is most certainly not based on faith.
12.31.2008 6:59pm
ReaderY:

Well, I live in Elk Grove CA where he filed his suit against the school district. I have spoken to him and conversed by email several times. My opinion is he is a literate, caring person who is dedicated to a cause he firmly believes in. (is that wrong?)


I don't know Dr. Newdow, and I certainly don't have any reason to believe he isn't a nice guy. But the question of whether his lawsuit has merit isn't really supposed to depend on whether he's a nice guy or not. Dr. Newdow filed a similar lawsuit in 2005 and lost, so it's a reasonable speculation that he might lose this time too. General discussions of the law of religion and what folks think it is and/or should be also seem topical. Nothing to do with Dr. Newdow's personal character.
12.31.2008 7:49pm
whit:
lazareus,

if you cannot see how referring to people who have different beliefs than you about the existence of a deity(s) as "deluded" etc. is not belittling, intolerant, and presumptious, then more power to you.

adults can generally discuss such concepts without name calling and referring to those with whom they disagree about important philosophical/metaphysical conceptsas "deluded".

not to mention that your post is factually inaccurate (besides the references to non-existent elements of the constitution you are using) because plenty of theists come from either atheist/agnostic households, or from nations where theism was outlawed. yet, they found faith. your concept that people only believe because they were force fed 'delusions' is thus inaccurate AND insulting.

as for the "wall of seperation", it is still you that are still wrong. it is not in the constitution, and it is thus not a constitutional requirement (again, this says nothing about the idea that it may be a GOOD idea, policywise...). just because it has made its way into pop culture, doesn't make it so, any more than the (non-existent) right to privacy under the federal constitution has.

regardless, the main point is that intelligent, reasoned ADULTS can discuss this, one of the most important questions ever - why are we here, how are we here, is there a higher power, etc. bla bla -, one that has intrigued every culture throughout our history, without referring to those with whom one disagrees as "deluded".

since nobody knows or can prove the existence or non-existence of gods, it is the height of arrogance to claim that those that do believe in god are "deluded". in fact, it makes you quite similar to those who profess to know exactly what the mind of god IS, etc. iow, you are exactly like a fundamentalist, certain in your knowledge that you are right. again, how ironic alanis.
12.31.2008 8:04pm
Lazareus:
LBColorado:

What about the people that have stood on their faith and have soured above and beyond anything they could have imagined.

They did that, whatever that was. If believing in God helped them do it, fine. Don't make it so, I'm afraid.


What about the freedom that you have to even say what you say - it is what we (Christians) call FREE WILL.

Actually, most people call it free will. Your point is?


In the world that we live in right now, I don't know how you even get up in the morning - to live in a world without hope that when you (man) has done all it knows - what then?

I get out of bed just fine, what's that got to do with it?
"world without hope"? That would seem to say more about your viewpoint than mine. But I guess you really want to know what I'll do without an afterlife. I dunno, I'll be dead.
But in the meantime, I have a happy marriage, a handsome son, and a great attitude about the people I meet. Oh, yes, and I really enjoy bursting the bubble of self-righteous christians. What more is there to hope for?


I know you will no doubt flip out on this comment, but what can I say - it is what it is and I guess we will just have to wait and see.

No, sorry, I just chuckled. I hear this kind of stuff a lot from people who feel they've nothing to hope for if they can't believe that a supernatural being will grant them everlasting life in paradise as long as they oppress the right people in this life.
But happy new year anyway :)
12.31.2008 9:15pm
Richard Aberdeen (mail) (www):
These atheists don't believe in freedom of religion, freedom of speech or freedom of anything else. What they really want is for everybody to conform to what they personally believe and to silence everyone who doesn't agree with them.

“The ten commandments and the sermon on the mount contain my religion,” John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1816. -- Encyclopedia Britannica

According to historian Kenneth Galbreath, James Madison said after the First Amendment was drafted that it would “help aid in the spread of Christianity”.

According to Thomas Jefferson, we are “endowed by our Creator” with human rights.

Benjamin Franklin, according to one of his biographers, complained openly and often while the Constitution was being drafted, that those involved were not seeking guidance from God enough in their daily meetings.

Freedom of speech very much means, that an atheist can say they don't believe in God and Obama can acknowledge that he does by including God in any way he wishes for his inaguration. Freedom of speech means that someone who believes in the overwhelming evidence we are created can say so, while someone who does not is free to announce to the world that they believe in convoluted fantasies if they want to.

After all, freedom is freedom. I have never met an atheist who believes in freedom. They invariably believe in the same Texas Cowpie that Junior Bush believes; i.e., those who aren't with us are against us. Talk about your "parnoia runs deep... hey, better stop children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin' down"

Oh, oh, I quoted someone else who believes in God; my mistake, will try to do better next time.

WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?
www.FreedomTracks.com
1.1.2009 1:56pm
Lazareus:
Oh, dear:
More theist bigotry. All unbelievers are bad because they don't agree with Richard.

Overwhelming evidence we are created....

this guys a real hoot!

And he's just as bent on rewriting the history of our founding fathers as the rest of the god squad, desperately seeking justification for his delusion. Careful not to hurt yourself in your efforts to bend the truth.

Now again, nobody really cares if Obama says SHMG. The point is that the Chief Justice should not prompt him to say it.
1.1.2009 2:11pm
contesa (mail):
Newdow has got to be the biggest moron ever. He is trying to take away freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Obama professes to be a Christian, so there shouldn't even be a question as to whether SO HELP ME GOD should be in the inaugural address. It will never be taken out because the people of the United States will never allow an atheist to hold office, thus no one else has a problem with God being in the address. I commend Chief Justice Roberts for inputting that quote in the inaugural address...our founding fathers built this government under God and it needs to remain under God. If the atheists do not like, then don't listen to him say it, but just shut it. The majority of American has a Christian background and we are getting sick and tired of the leftist kooks in government and elsewhere trying to inflict their unholy, idiotic and un-American doctrine on the the majority who want God in this country. I'm glad people realize that this Newdow guy is a kook who needs to just quit wasting taxpayers money to have his agenda taken care of.
1.1.2009 2:32pm
Shri (mail) (www):
I am 100% assured that Jesus never existed. It has been proven that the Nazareth was founded 200 years after Christ. Leading scholars and media personnel are trying to clear how the church the dogma of Christ - fabricated the existence of the Judean Messiah. Roman records do not provide evidence of Jesus. All evidence that is present has come out of non neutral Vatican.

The story of Jesus and the bible is a collection of anectodes from the stories of Mithras, Dionysus, Horus, Osiris and many pagan Gods. Independent researchers easily conclude that Constntine 1st and Justinian who wanted the Roman emprie for themselves seeded the Jesus myth.

The story of Jesus is nothing but the story of Sun. Night of December 24th is when the Sun starts his Northward journey (after the Winter Solstice on 21st December). 12 disciples are metaphors for the 12 constellations in the heavens. The Virgin birth comes from the fact that the sun rises in the Constellation Virgo in morning of 25th.

So in short if you remove Jesus from Christianity there is no Christianity ... I am a Hindu and fortunate enough to be part of a religion that preaches universal spiritualism and introspection instead of established dogmas. It is better to worship the universe than some fabricated fairy tale being ... At least we know that the Sun, moon and the stars are real.

Lazareus, Please do more research on how Jesus story is fake! Bless yourself :) Towards enlightenment we go ...
1.1.2009 3:17pm
nick54 (mail):
Shri,

I am unhappy with everybody who chops up history. It is the record of how our forefathers existed. It should be protected at all costs.

You may have a bone to pick with the religious community but your statements indicate your passion to be "correct" far outweighs being accurate. The historical record provides much confirmation that Jesus did indeed exist and that the world was changed because of it. I could care less about the religious views certain people have, but to eliminate people from the historical record because of what they claim is foolish. I certainly don't know where you came up with the start date for Nazareth but methinks you have had a few too many hits of hashish.

You say you are a Hindu but apparently you are not a very good one. Hindus historically are dogmatic in the openness to the religious belief of others. They even will accept the thinking of atheists. Yet you not only attack the basic tenets of their beliefs, you then add your own explanation of how the things really were. Wow, you must be like 2000 years old to know better than those who recorded historical fact when it actually happened.

If you want fuzzy history then look to the Hindus. They believe in everything and therefore stand for nothing. There is no absolute truth because that is an unneccessary item for believers of Hinduism to function. That is fact.
1.2.2009 12:30am
AB:
he and his ilk are just miserable people who happen not to believe in God. dogs in mangers.

I don't ruin Santa Claus for kids, I enjoy their delight and appreciate the good their belief brings.

a true atheist who is not a miserable jerk should treat Christians the same way. and most of them do. let me have my beliefs, and if you feel as though you are so much smarter than I am, just patiently tolerate me and my silliness.
1.2.2009 2:04pm
Lazareus:
AB:
I'd be happy to tolerate you and your silliness if you'd just keep your beliefs in your own house. The problem is that you and your ilk keep wanting to make laws based on those beliefs.
It should be clear to most people by now that god is not an established fact. If the god fearing people of the world would just accept that, and let others live the way they wish, we could all get along fine. But no, despite the fact that your supposed god is all-knowing, and all-powerful, and presumably capable of sorting out the sinners from the righteous at the pearly gates, you want to make laws here on earth to sort them out NOW. Sounds a lot like usurping your god's power to me. And won't you all turn out to be a bunch of a--hats if you're wrong?
Oh yeah, and about Santa Claus...
Just what does Santa Claus have to do with Christianity? Santa started out as Kris Kringle in medieval Germany. A wealthy nobleman made it a tradition to share the wealth of the years harvest with his peasants, and the idea spread.
As with so many other ideas (like America, and it's "freedom for all" constitution) as soon as the Christians saw it catching on, they stole it, and rebranded it. Now it's a tool to keep good little christians in line. Sad really.

So, in an effort to remain on topic, how about all you folks pining for god quit wanting to stick his name all over everything? It's just going to make it harder on all of you when you are eventually proved to be full of it.
1.2.2009 3:13pm
David Drake:
Lazareus


Oh yeah, and about Santa Claus...
Just what does Santa Claus have to do with Christianity? Santa started out as Kris Kringle in medieval Germany. A wealthy nobleman made it a tradition to share the wealth of the years harvest with his peasants, and the idea spread.
As with so many other ideas (like America, and it's "freedom for all" constitution) as soon as the Christians saw it catching on, they stole it, and rebranded it. Now it's a tool to keep good little christians in line. Sad really.



You're right in thinking that Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christianity; few serious Christians would claim he does and he is not part of any Christian teaching I know about. This and similar statements just betray your ignorance about Christianity.

"In an effort to remain on topic," why don't you go away? The original post was whether Newdow's challenge to the oath of office as it will be administered to Pres. elect Obama has any chance of being sustained by a court. It really has nothing to do with the merits of the oath, the dogmas of Christianity, or the existence of God.
1.2.2009 3:49pm
David Drake:
Shri--

I could make a bunch of ignorant statements about Hinduism too, but I won't because it would only betray my ignorance of Hinduism just as yours about Christianity betray your ignorance. Many Hindus whom I know accept Jesus as an incarnation of God just as all Muslims accept Him as one of the prophets. If you don't, that's O.K., but what do your beliefs (or mine for that matter) about Jesus have to do with the subject of this post?

This post concerns whether Newdow's challenge to the oath of office has any chance of being sustained by the courts.
1.2.2009 4:02pm
Shri (mail) (www):
I am not ignorant about any religion in this world. The past of both Christianity and Islam is too gory and bloody so I have to bring in the Jesus facts because many think that the Bible is the word of God. Then for you guys the Constitution and the Laws should not matter? Catholic Conquistadors exterminated native American religion and brutally massacred them, not to mention the countless times Christians have targeted innocent Jews. Also If you believe or semi believe in God, then you should also believe in Creationism. If you believe in creationism, then you are an ignorant moron who does not believe in the true laws of nature and science. you should not be posting here at all but should be in a Christian lab trying to prove that Man was created 5000 years ago by your god and that Radio Carbon dating or fossils were strategically placed by God so that few millenia later man will discover them and make block buster movies! The real case here is to keep religion out of Law and state subjects! The trouble is that once you bring in Religion then you bring in all the bad things and bulls*** that comes with it.

I went off track because there are so many here posting comments that want us non believers to rot in hell. Incarnation Schmincarnations apart when it comes to Law in the 21st century, America has to come out as an example of exemplary moral values. The challenge is to reiterate that God (as in Bible's Bearded all knowing Father of Jesus God) should not be made part of the state which is formed by Rational individuals !!!
1.2.2009 4:44pm
Lazareus:
The last resort of a lost argument: "why don't you go away?"

Mr Drake, you're not even the first to try that one. If, as you told Shri, you weren't going to make ignorant statements, why would you suggest to me that the nonexistence of god has no relevance to the inclusion of SHMG in the inaugural oath? Wouldn't you be concerned about a guy with control of nuclear weapons swearing an oath to say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster? In my mind, there's not one bit of difference.

With respect to your asinine remarks as to my ignorance of Christianity, rest assured, I spent my young life in a thorough study of it before I decided to reject it. As many atheists, I learned that there's no faster way to quit religion than to thoroughly understand it. Give it a try, huh?
1.2.2009 4:59pm
Waldensian (mail):

GOD IS IN CONTROL LIKE IT OR NOT

And apparently the Dallas Cowboys have really pissed Him off.
1.3.2009 12:11am
Lazareus:
That's right folks, God has allied with the chairman of the NFL to further refine the control of American minds. It's working great on Waldensian!
Poor Cowboys, I wonder what they did to deserve this B.S.

Fortunately, those with inquiring minds can still escape. Just write your congressman and let him know that it's about time he and the rest of our political leaders quit pushing their Christian-Nazi agenda.
1.3.2009 12:37pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.