Saturday, September 18, 2004


I guess the Powerline plug has actually gotten me my first "real" (as in, from people I don't know) comments of this blogs existance. How cool! And considering that most of them seemed to center around me being foolish and wrong, I guess I need to tighten up my arguments.

Now, I won't normally do this (or if I do, it will be via e-mail), but I'm going to take this time to answer some of the comments personally, on the front page of the blog! That's YOUR prize for being an early reader!

Starting with the comments in my "Thank You" post. This centered around my boredom with Rathergate and other topics of that nature.
Skb argues that 1) its presumptous to claim what is and is not relevant in this election and 2) that he wouldn't vote for Kerry if he lied about his wounds or Bush if he lied to get into the Guard. In a way he is correct, but I do think that these issues should be of secondary importance in the election. What our politicians did or didn't do 30 years ago is not particularly relevant to how they'll govern our country today. While I can perhaps see these issues as being relevant to the electoral decision as a whole, what I'm seeing (and condemning) is that these issues are seemingly pre-empting a rational discussion on the issues that face our nation, and I think that is deeply unfortunate.
Rmcleod argues more directly about the importance of Rathergate. I agree that it is an important issue. But the question is, should it be covered to the virtual exclusion of all others? As Orin Kerr puts it, it should have gotten a few blog posts, but it shouldn't have dominated the discussion. Even the debater in me, who, as Rmcleod points out, appreciates the need for legitimate, honest argumentation, also recognizes that between a case of bad factchecking and arguments over Iraq, Tax Cuts, Terrorism, and a myriad of other pressing issues, the precedence clearly should go to the latter.

Now to the Pledge Comments. These seem to fall into two broad categories, so I'll address each in turn.
First, saying the pledge in general. This is a complex issue. I'll admit I'm a bit torn, because I can see the validity of the points being made. At the same time, the general point about freedom vs compulsion still holds true. Call me anti-essentialist, but I'm going to honor my country on my terms, not the ones dictated to me by the government. However, that point I have to admit is far less important to me than the religious nature of the pledge.
My critique of the "under God" clause in the pledge seemed to be misunderstood. Terry actually gets my position backwards: I don't like "under God" BECAUSE I find it religiously demeaning. It implies that my faith can be reduced to a one-size-fits-all statement like "one nation under God," which is degrading. And the implication that my religion will somehow suffer if "under God" is taken out suggests that my faith can't survive without government training wheels, which is incredibly offensive. And I think that statements of many of the religious leaders who have fought against UG's removal have indeed characterized their position in terms of the need to protect America and organized religion against the ensuing wave of Godlessness. In any event, the fact that people like me can find fault in the pledge on pro-religion grounds is yet more proof that when government wades into religious messages, the result is invariably negative.
Matt points out specifically that the Pledge is merely an affirmation of certain values or ideals. That's great and laudable, but it only strengthens my argument as to the religious aspect. As Judge Reinhardt wrote in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in US v. Newdow (328 F.3d 466, 2002)
In the context of the Pledge, the statement that the United States is a nation "under God" is a profession of a religious belief, namely, a belief in monotheism. The recitation that ours is a nation "under God" is not a mere acknowledgment that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase "one nation under God" in the context of the Pledge is normative. To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead, it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice, and--since 1954--monotheism. A profession that we are a nation "under God" is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation "under Jesus," a nation "under Vishnu," a nation "under Zeus," or a nation "under no god," because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion. The school district's practice of teacher-led recitation of the Pledge aims to inculcate in students a respect for the ideals set forth in the Pledge, including the religious values it incorporates.

That innoculation of religious values, along with the obvious coercive attribute of a schoolhouse setting (that Mr. Mirengoff aptly describes) should make for a clear establishment clause violation, though there are many, many other reasons on which the UG clause falters constitutionally. The 9th circuit opinion gives an excellent analysis of these reasons (as the Supreme Court ruling focused on standing, it had a far less in-depth analysis of the constitutional issues at hand).

Finally, the statement that "I must be doing something right" in my writings on the pledge (considering all the wonderful benefits it got me) was intended to be humorous. I would HOPE that Carleton didn't let me in simply because it liked my politics (if they did, they'll be sorely mistaken, as I'm probably one of the most conservative students on campus, not that that says much).

Anyway, cheers to y'all!

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