Fighting for the "Contract" and the Constitution: The Pledge Protection Act
By Virginia Armstrong, Ph.D., National Chairman
The Values Voters' Contract with Congress which we introduced in our last "Court Watch Briefing" is on the move. A top priority in the action package proposed by the Contract is Congressional passage of the Pledge Protection Act (or "PPA"). The PPA has been designated as H.R. 2389 and S. 1046. The House bill sponsor is Rep. Akin (MO), with a number of co-sponsors. The Senate bill sponsor is Sen. Kyl (AZ). Your action is needed, and the justifications for the bill are powerful.
This bill is necessary because of Reconstructionist (activist/liberal) judges who have insisted that "under God" in the Pledge renders unconstitutional the public school recitation of the Pledge (Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow,
542 U.S.1, 2004). The Pledge was thrown out by the "Nasty Ninth" Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court refused to hear the merits of the case because it found that Michael Newdow, the father protesting his daughter's having to say the Pledge, had no standing to bring the suit. The Pledge was thus reinstated, and the Court's finding that Newdow had no standing was correct. But the vital substantive arguments in favor of the Pledge received due attention only in the concurring opinion of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas (Justice Scalia, normally expected to write an incisive opinions in a case such as this, did not participate in Newdow).
Among the most persuasive reasons for passing the PPA and protecting the Pledge are the following:
- History amply demonstrates that rejection of "under God" "precipitates 'a war with our national tradition.'" Invalidating the Pledge would foster the invalidation of a mountain of other national documents, observances, utterances, etc. the Constitution itself and the National Anthem to mention only two. And "history" includes recent history. The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge just fifty years ago in 1954.
- The First Amendment's Establishment Clause, relied upon by Michael Newdow to invalidate the Pledge, does not cover situations such as the Pledge. As several court opinions recently have explained, what the Clause prohibits is legal coercion. What is unconstitutional is government's employing force and/or threat of penalty to require attendance at a state church meeting, tithing to support ministers, taxation to build and repair church buildings, etc. The voluntary recitation of the Pledge by public school children does not even approach such legal coercion.
- Acknowledgments of God do not per se violate the Constitution, whether they are "religious" or "patriotic" statements. In a 1992 Seventh Circuit opinion upholding the Pledge with "under God" in it, Circuit Judge Manion wrote that "a civic reference to God does not become permissible . . . only when . . . it is sapped of religious significance." "[W]e need not drain the meaning from the reference [to God in the Pledge] to reach this conclusion." Millions of Americans who believe in God must understand this critical fact that civic utterances involving God are constitutional even though the utterances are religious in nature. We must not be muzzled by Humanist distortions and fierce efforts to stifle our constitutional rights.
- The Constitution's Establishment Clause was violated by the Ninth Circuit judges who threw out the Pledge. As pro-Pledge judges on the Ninth Circuit correctly observed, throwing out he Pledge "confer[red] a favored status on atheism in our public life . . . . The silence [that the majority commands] is not neutral . . . . The absolute prohibition on any mention of God in our schools creates a bias against religion . . . . "
- The inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge in no way suppresses anyone's religious beliefs or threatens the "pluralism" to which the Newdows of America profess such fervent allegiance. The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge by Congress in 1954. During the half century since then, Americans have been reciting "under God" while simultaneously experiencing the greatest explosion of "diversity and "pluralism" in the nation's history.
The Pledge of Allegiance as currently written by Congress is constitutional. Court decisions declaring the Pledge unconstitutional are wrong.
What Can We Do?
The PPA simply removes from federal court jurisdiction the power to hear attacks on the Pledge. It MUST be passed before the U. S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to rule on the Pledge and possibly throw it out. The PPA passed the House last Congress, but did not pass the Senate. If the Senate now passes the PPA, it will likely pass the House, where it passed last Congress.
- Call your U.S. Senators (202-224-3121) and urge him/her to sign on S. 1046 as a co-sponsor and promote this bill.
- Call your Representative (202-225-3121) and urge him/her to support H.R. 2389.
Working Together We Can Make A Difference!