Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Michael Nudow on CBN News

Michael Nudow is an atheist who took a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that the words "under God" be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1954, in the grip of anti-commie hysteria, Congress added those words to the Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The U.S. Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That means that Congress cannot establish an official religion of the United States, nor even show favoritism for any religion (or religions) over others. Adding the words under God to the Pledge is clearly showing a marked favoritism for theism over atheism, which is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, because the Justices lacked the wisdom or the conejos to obey their oath to uphold the Constitution.

Tonight's CBN News on the Christian Broadcasting Network included footage of a debate between Michael Nudow and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) at Malone College in Canton, Ohio.

Nudow: For 62 years, the Pledge of Allegiance embraced us all: it was one nation, indivisible. Congress in 1954 took the two words under God and stuck them in there. There's two separate entities here. There's the people and the government. The people can do anything they want in terms of religion — individually, as groups, whatever. The government can do nothing in terms of religion. It's not allowed to take a position.

Sekulow: The reason that the insertion of under God took place was — people try to run away from history or change history — it's because we were in the Cold War. The Congress was trying to figure out, we're making this Pledge, what distinguishes us, this state, the United States, from them, the Soviet Union? Well, we know what it is: we believe, since our founding, that our rights, freedom, and liberties derive from who — from God.
No one is trying to run away from history or change history. Yes, of course, the Congress added those two words to the Pledge to distinguish the Holy United States from the Godless Soviet Union. That doesn't make it right or legal. As for the concept that our rights, freedom, and liberties derive from God, you are free as an individual to believe that or not, but our government cannot be permitted to make that belief official policy. The United States of America has been, since its founding, a manifestly secular nation. In the closing years of the 18th century, fewer than 5% of Americans were active church members. The rights of the other 95% were recognized in such places as the Establishment Clause.

As for what distinguished the United States from the Soviet Union, it was easy enough to make that contrast without reference to God. The United States was a multi-party democracy with (relatively) free and open political debate; the Soviet Union was a one-party autocratic state with brutal suppression of dissent. The United States had an economy based upon individual freedom and choice; the Soviet Union had a centrally planned economy based on doing what was (supposedly) best for the nation as a whole. Saying that we believe in God and they don't was completely missing the point. It wasn't lack of faith in God that brought down the Soviet Union, it was inability to provide food, clothing, housing, and employment to its people.

My rights, freedoms, and liberties do not derive from God, nor from the Flying Spaghetti Monster, nor from the American flag, nor from Lord Xenu, but rather from the Constitution of the United States of America. Yes, the Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." First of all, that "Creator" isn't exactly the "God" referred to in Christianity. It is, if anything, the Deist concept of "Nature's God," not anything like the guy with the flowing white beard reaching down with one hand while the other keeps his bathrobe from falling open.
Nudow: When we stop telling all Americans that we are a nation under God, and we stop doing the stuff that Jay is saying ... atheists will be elected to public office, too.

Sekulow: Mike, no one has to say the Pledge of Allegiance. You don't have to sing the Star-Spangled Banner, you don't even have to stand up when the Court says, "God save the United States and this honorable Court." No rights or freedoms are being denied anyone because of their religious belief.
Except the right to live in a nation that does not prefer one religion over others, that is. In the state of Texas, where I grew up, the state constitution says quite plainly and unambiguously, "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." That's a more direct and far more consequential violation of the U.S. Constitution, but no one has ever had standing to challenge it in court, because in order to do so, an atheist — or a polytheist — would have to be elected or appointed and then be denied the oath of office for refusing to acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. The point is that the Pledge of Allegiance, which I certainly was forced to recite in school, and which children are coerced to recite today, lays the foundation for an "atheists need not apply" view of government.
Nudow: (in a separate interview with CBN) My goal is not to get God off the money or under God out of the Pledge. My goal is to have every American treated as the Constitution mandates: with the same respect for all the different religious views we have. If we can put one nation under God in the Pledge, then we can put one nation under Jesus or one nation under Protestantism or one nation under the Baptists or one nation — anything. We're not supposed to be doing any of that.
It boils down to a simple test: would you support the endorsement of some other religion if it were in the majority and your view was in the minority? Would Jay Sekulow, as a Christian, support the words one nation under Cthulhu if the majority of Americans embraced that religion? The historical argument is specious, as I've already demonstrated, so the only argument remaining is that we should do as the majority wants.
audience question: Isn't omission of under God establishing a religion of atheism, which is one of the tenets of secular Marxism?

[Of course, the Christian Broadcasting Network didn't see fit to broadcast Nudow's response to the question.]
Aside from the fact that the student who read that question clearly had it handed to her by someone else — in fact, she sounded like she didn't even have a clear idea of what secular Marxism means — the answer is a resounding no. Saying that we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all is in no way whatsoever establishing a preference for atheism. It is simply establishing a lack of preference for any religion or lack of religion. The question smacks of the running theme in much of American discourse, the dominant majority screaming about being oppressed if they aren't allowed to run the entire show. It's the bullies saying that their victims are oppressing them by refusing to be punching bags. This idea that somehow Christianity in America is under threat is so laughably absurd as to defy comment.

On the other hand, some demographers claim that within the next three decades, Christianity will no longer be the majority religion in the United States, although it will still be the most popular. Are the Christians really willing to risk the wrath of the rest of the population when they might actually be in a position to persecute you — or at least knock you down several pegs — in thirty years? Are you that certain that the Rapture is coming that soon?

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