Friday, December 30, 2011

My reply to Doug Indeap on the constitutional separation of church and state; Part 2

Doug Indeap is an atheist and an attorney who disagrees with me about the First Amendment.

The government's inscription of the phrase "In God we trust" on coins and currency, as well as its addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase "In God we trust" as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be corrected.
No problem, Doug. Next election, vote for the guy who agrees with you. When enough people do this, these guys who agree with you will pass legislation to correct the mistake.
Under our Constitution, the government has no business proclaiming that "we trust" "In God."
We the People (i.e. the government) do have that right.  It's not an establishment of religion, which is the only religious expression the Constitution forbids. There is no compulsion involved-- there are no Trust in God Police knocking on your door making sure that you're trusting in God-- so We the People can use our representative democracy to make any motto we want. 'We Trust in Buddha', 'We Trust in Beyonce', 'We Trust but Verify', 'We Trust No One', 'We Trust Doug'...
Some of us do, and some of us don't; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard.
Right, Doug. The Constitution bars the government from saying anything that 312,529,476 Americans don't all agree on.

Are you sure you're a lawyer, Doug?
Nor does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country.
That's your opinion, of course. You are entitled to work through the democratic process to stop the government from doing that.

What you're not entitled to do is fabricate idiotic interpretations of the Constitution to get a federal judge to order the police to enforce your viewpoint.

And are you really saying that the president doesn't have the right to ask us to pray for our soldiers or say "God Bless America"?
The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22:
"Congress shall make no law putting atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22..."

A Catch 22, Doug, involves putting someone in a logical contradiction, i.e. 'You can get out of combat if you're crazy, but if you want to get out of combat, you not crazy...'. You need to bone up on your Joseph Heller. I think that he wrote a letter to Danbury Baptists...

Public officials talking about God despite the fact that a few atheists don't want them to isn't a logical contradiction. It's a pluralist democracy. If you don't like it, you can ignore it.

Do you really spend that much time reading the inscriptions on dollar bills?
Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens.
That's right, Doug. The Constitution has an amendment prohibiting making you feel bad.

Several hundred million Americans believe that our nation is "under God"? Should they recite a godless pledge with rank hypocrisy and accept exclusion? Don't they have recourse to the same 'Doug can't be made to feel bad' clause that protects you?

When you feel bad, Doug, it's not unconstitutional. It's simply something that bothers you. You have several options when you're asked (not forced) to say something (like the pledge) that bothers you:

1) You can say it. Just like we all say "... with liberty and justice for all" when we know that there is some injustice in America. Heck, Doug, I say it anyway. I've never called the police about it.

2) You can say "... One Nation, (mumble... mumble) with liberty and justice for all." Leave out the God part when you recite it. Let other people include the God part if they want to. Free speech, Doug. No one will arrest you. No one will notice. No one cares.

3) You can not say the pledge. Free speech, Doug. No one will arrest you. No one will notice. No one cares.

4) You can mumble "..."One Nation, (Under Doug), with liberty and justice for all."

Show 'em a bit of that atheist wit.

Don't call the police because other people say things you don't like.
The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds,
There's no force, Doug. Force is when you call the police to stop others from saying things.
and it certainly has no business assembling citizens' children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge--affirmation of a god and all--as a daily routine.
People's children are legally required to attend school, and they are "prescribed" many things. It's called "curriculum".

Saying "under God" in the pledge is one of the few things in their little day that's not curriculum and not required. They have the opportunity to do so, if they wish.

They have to take the math quiz. They have to write the English essay. They have to learn the leftie stuff in the curriculum that lefties like you force them to learn. They don't have to say "Under God".

See the difference, Doug?
But that's just me talking. The courts, on the other hand, have sometimes found ways to excuse such things, for instance with the explanation that they are more about acknowledging tradition than promoting religion per se.
Bull. When most Americans say "God bless America" or "one nation, under God" they mean it. They want God to bless America and they believe we are a nation under God. It is peculiar to your atheist ideology to believe that other people don't hold their own views with the conviction with which you hold yours.

The Constitution was meant to protect this diversity of belief. The whole point of the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause was to get the federal government out of the 'religious referee' business. We were to have no national church, which would interfere with local religious practices, and we were to have no constraints on religious expression. Free expression, Doug. So your bizarre "separation" jurisprudence shoves the federal courts right into the middle of the religious referee business, which is precisely what the Framers wanted to avoid.

But of course the federal courts can't be religious referees in any practical sense. That's why the Framers went to such pains to prohibit the federal government from sifting permitted and forbidden religious expression. How can a few judges micromanage religious speech in our huge American cauldron of beliefs?

So one of the problems with your b.s. unconstitutional "constitutional separation of church and state" jurisprudence is that it forces referees courts to say really stupid things in order to reach conclusions that aren't batshit. The courts can't ban all references to God by public officials. They can't even ban one percent of the references to God by public officials. "You're under arrest, Mr. Lincoln. Put down that Second Inaugural Address... slowly... so we can see your hands... "

So courts are forced to make stuff up to make it look like they're being rational. 'The Court finds that the Ten Commandments are unconstitutional if they're written in purple ink, but if they're in blue ink, they're constitutional'.

But there's no need to go through the referee charade. "Under God" is religion, and it is perfectly Constitutional. All religious expression is Constitutional anywhere by anyone unless it is an Establishment. Voluntary talk about God isn't an Establishment.

A voluntary prayer isn't an Establishment. A voluntary motto isn't an Establishment. "Voluntary" is the anthesis of "Establishment". There has never been an Establishment of religion at the federal level, Doug. Not even close. You're paranoid, Doug.
Draining the government's nominally religious statements or actions of religious meaning (or at least purporting to do so) and discounting them as non-religious ritual--sometimes dubbed "ceremonial deism"--is one way to find them not to conflict with the First Amendment.
Invoking God is not deism. Deism is the belief that God is un-invokable. Deism is the belief that God does not act. Invoking God presupposes that He does act. Asking God to bless America or saying that our nation is under God is asserting that God acts and cares. It is the antithesis of deism. It ain't "ceremonial deism". What a dumb thing to say, Doug.

Invoking God is the free exercise of religion. It's Constitutional.
Ordinary folks, though, commonly see things differently; when they read "[i]n God we trust," they think the Government is actually declaring that "we" as a people actually "trust" the actual "God" they believe in.
Most ordinary folks do trust in God. They are sovereign in America. We're a democracy. We made such references part of our public life.
If they understood it as merely a ritualistic phrase devoid of religious meaning, they would hardly get as exercised as they do about proposals to drop it.
Yep. They understand what you're up to Doug, and it pisses them off. Pisses me off, too.
As you can imagine, those more interested in championing their religion than the constitutional principle of separation of church and state sometimes seek to exploit and expand such "exceptions" even if it requires they fake interest only in tradition.

The  constitutional principle of separation of church and state isn't constitutional. It's your opinion, Doug. Your opinions aren't law. You don't have the right to get courts to enforce your opinions, Doug.

If you don't like "Under God", make the case through the legislative process. Ya know, the process that the people who believe in democracy use. If you win, great for you.

If you lose, you can still mumble "one nation, under Doug...".


  1. I have never heard of a child in the US being forced to make this pledge in public school.
    They were not in the last century when I attended a school in California for 3 years. Nor was it the case when my son attended a school in New York for 6 months. Neither of us would DREAM of making a pledge for the US revolution (Brit, Canadian) and we were NOT expected too.
    There was not even any hard feelings. In fact, one teacher asked me to recite OUR pledge of Loyalty and Anthem(s) in order to point out the 'important' parts of each. It was a friendly comparison and built bridges.
    One of the important parts was the invocation of God's name to protect the 'rights' or 'liberties' of the 'people'.
    Rather than make me feel excluded, this young teacher taught me a VERY valuable lesson: Despite the apparently vast differences in the 18th century, our nations differences amount to STYLE; they share a purpose or goal.
    This is why we remain close allies and friends since Lincoln.
    If Doug feels excluded by these sentiments, the problem is within him - not the pledge.

  2. PS.
    It is law in Ontario that children should stand for the national anthem each morning. They may leave the room, if it offends their religious sensibilities - but they must stand, by law. This law was recently implemented due to a disturbing trend in urban areas. A trend of NON INTEGRATION on the part of migrant communities. Many kids being born in Canada were very poor at English skills, and had NO idea what Canada was, how to sing her anthem, how our history has hsaped us etc.
    Big problems in big cities were we have had 'secular' types protest this (by getting children to sit, or not putting on PA system). Many of the most PC / Lefty teachers claimed the offence lied within the words 'God keep our land, Glorious and Free' and 'In all thy Sons command'.
    The latter is a reference to the Sons of Canada and the Crown (ref'd to Tennyson)... but the secularists did not care: Someone may MISTAKE 'Sons' for Son's and that COULD BE Jesus.
    Anyway... Law still stands. Many of these ideologue 'teachers' in the city still hate God and Canada - but now the kids get to hear their anthem again.

    God keep this land glorious and free.
    Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

  3. Several hundred million Americans believe that our nation is "under God"? Should they recite a godless pledge with rank hypocrisy and accept exclusion?

    What you don't seem to understand is that the rights enumerated in the Constitution are supposed to be beyond the normal legislative process. Your constant bleating about how Doug can go and get a legislator to make a law to function that way Doug says the law operates is flawed in two ways.

    First off, he doesn't have to. The law works the way he says it does. A century of jurisprudence that you dismiss with a wave of your hand is on his side in this. And this isn't going to change any time soon. You're engaged in revisionism and your historical and legal scholarship is so weak and shoddy that one wonders if you got your arguments from a pack of bubble gum cards.

    Second, just as we don't vote on things like whether your home can be subjected to a search without a warrant, or whether you are entitled to due process of law, we don't vote on the Establishment clause. Mouthing "democracy" is not a get out of jail free card for your arguments. We live in a limited democracy in which certain issues have been determined to be beyond the legislative process. To push the argument back at you, if you want the Constitution to work the way you think it should, there is a process for doing that - it is called Amendment. If your ideas concerning how religion should be wedged into the public sphere are as wildly popular as you seem to think they are, you should have no trouble getting the Establishment clause amended forthwith. But I doubt it. I think that if you tried, it would just expose what a lunatic fringe you sit on.

  4. @anon:

    I'll reply to you comment with a post this coming week.

  5. I'll reply to you comment with a post this coming week.

    I see that the source you cribbed your weak argument from didn't cover those points so you have to go back and figure out how to revise history some more. Too bad you don't understand the arguments you are touting well enough to respond to them on your own. Not that the arguments that you are touting make any sense to anyone who isn't on the lunatic fringe you inhabit.

  6. @anon:

    Yea, I gotta think reel hard to anser yer argumints.

  7. Yea, I gotta think reel hard to anser yer argumints.

    Given that the arguments concerning the Establishment clause that you've made thus far are little more than nonsense it is a real stretch to think you could actually come up with anything of value at this point.

    One has to wonder if it is so easy to answer my arguments why you need to wait until next week to do so. It seems that you simply don't know how to answer them other than to pretend to misspell things and act like the idiot you've demonstrated yourself to be time and again.

  8. @anon:

    I've already written the post. I try to do no more than one per day, to keep the workload under control, and I have other posts in the queue. I have about 40 posts already written, through the end of January. I try to reserve certain days for certain kinds of posts. Saturday is light humor, Sunday is religion, Monday is "Why I'm an atheist". Tuesday is going to be Catholic Church history.

    I have you on for Wednesday, January 4th, which is "reply to atheist brownshirt day".

    I know you're anxious.

  9. 1. As Anonymous has already pointed out, your post is largely premised on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of constitutional law. The Constitution places certain matters beyond the purview of the normal electoral and legislative processes. Our individual rights, for instance, are not up for majority vote, as you seem to suppose.

    Your post is premised as well on other fundamental misunderstandings. You seem not to appreciate the distinctions between (1) We the People, (2) the government, and (3) individuals. For instance, you proclaim that "We the People (i.e. the government)" have the right to say we trust in God. "We the People" and "the government" are not one and the same. "We the People," acting through a constitutional convention, created "the government" and, in the process, gave it certain powers, refrained from giving it other powers, and expressly limited some of its powers. "We the People" could amend the Constitution and thereby change the government's powers; the government itself, though, cannot do that. The government must act within the constraints established by "We the People" in the Constitution, including the separation of church and state.

    Your disbelief that the Constitution might bar the government from saying anything that 312,529,476 Americans don't all agree reflects yet another fundamental misunderstanding--because it indeed does just that in certain respects. That is what the constitutional guarantees of individual rights and constitutional limits on government power are all about. The government is constrained to act according to the Constitution REGARDLESS of whether those on one or the other side of an issue amount to millions or dozens or one.

    You and I appear to agree on one thing: The courts' explanation that the references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto are more about acknowledging tradition than promoting religion is "bull." As you say, when most Americans recite these references they "mean it." If the courts acknowledged that and dealt with it forthrightly, they would then have to recognize that such governmental pronouncements are indeed unconstitutional. The courts, though, dodge that conclusion by the "bull" that it is all about tradition and not about religion.

  10. 2. You repeat the idea that governmental promotion of religion is not "establishment" of religion as long as it leaves to each individual the "voluntary" choice of toeing the government line or not. While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

    Separation of church and state does not, as you assert, force courts to "referee" religious expression. It is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. No "refereeing" needed. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical. In figuring this out case by case, the courts are not "refereeing" individuals' free expression of religion, as you suppose, but rather are sorting out individual from government speech--and leaving the individuals freely to express their views and constraining only the government not to promote or oppose religion.

  11. Great smackdown of the smarmy comments of another atheist ideologue.

  12. @Doug:

    Thanks for your comments. I'll reply in a week or two in a couple of posts.

    But for now, please, answer this:

    Is it unconstitutional for the President and other high government officials to invoke God and to encourage prayer in his official announcements?

    Examples would be saying "God Bless America" or asking the nation to pray for our soldiers or quoting Matthew and discussing God's will as acted out in our Nation's history (Lincoln's Second Inaugural) or permitting crosses and stars of David in Arlington National Cemetery.

    Simple question.

  13. Egnor: Are you sure you're a lawyer, Doug?

    Mike, my irony meter blew up again. You've got to drop this cocky attitude. You are clearly not a lawyer and you don't understand law enough to criticize a practicing attorney.

    Just to help you along here, imagine Doug asking you "Are you sure you're a neurosurgeon, Mike?" I'm sure you'd get a good chuckle out of it. So do we.

    This is why we come here. It's pure entertainment. Thanks for your hard work!

  14. Michael,

    Your 'simple' question has been answered previously. Are you so simple that you don't realize it? Go back and reread your previous thread.

    Repeating inane questions and comments is your forte.

  15. "one nation, under Doug...".

    Now that's funny!


  16. Do we have a ceasefire over new year's eve?

  17. @Anon,
    "Not that the arguments that you are touting make any sense to anyone who isn't on the lunatic fringe you inhabit."
    You are the in the minority here, Anon.
    YOU are the fringe.
    Communists are just not the norm in the USA, or the west in general.
    You may want to try that line in NK or Red China.

  18. CrusadeRex,

    What makes you think Anonymous is a Communist?

  19. What strikes me whenever this subject comes up is the extreme need Christians feel to have there religion validated by the government and non-believers. They howl and moan whenever they feel they haven’t been stroked sufficiently by their political leaders. They won’t be happy until everyone wishes everyone else “Merry Christmas” on the off chance that some sensitive Christian may take offence should someone wish them “happy holidays”, oh the horror. A Nativity scene on the front lawn of a church isn’t good enough for them; they need it right on the town commons to proclaim that the government is on their side. They want to drive by and say “see little Jonny, Our government recognizes that Christianity is special.” They want to force you to say “Under God” if you want to pledge your allegiance to this country no matter what you believe. So what if it makes some people hesitant to pledge allegiance, screw them, they’re not “real” Americans anyway. They won’t be happy until we’re all kissing their sensitive asses all the time.


  20. @Bach,
    "What makes you think Anonymous is a Communist?"
    His writing. He may not know it yet, but he is on the red brick road.

    Who says 'Red China' anymore? People who are tasked with monitoring that communist hive, military, politicians, and historians. What do you call it these days? How do you differentiate between Taiwan and the Communist regime in Beijing?

    Peg me at 60? Sorry - you're off. I am old enough to remember the 70's and young enough to have held an ACTIVE commission in SWA with a recon unit. They don't send many old men into that theatre that way, and I was not one of them. But I appreciate the estimate. Age and wisdom are linked.
    Maybe you detect that I show what civilians perceive ad 'military eccentricities'. That is a valid observation.
    I peg you at about 25? Right? The facilitating atheism gives it away. I mean who defends communism but freshly university conditioned 'sheep'? Right?
    As for 'Fag'? I had no idea you smoked... cigarettes, poles, pot, or otherwise.
    No problems with fags, either way you mean it.
    One of my oldest friends is in a gay monogamous relationship, we have gays in the family (Christians too!), and I do not see smoking as some sort of crime. I am anti prohibition and have been for years. Waste of resources and infringement of personal liberties.
    Smoke all the fags you want as far as I am concerned, commie.