Blogs - The President's Desk
April 26, 2008
Rev. Dr. Newdow v. Dr. Leland
On April 23, 2008, a debate between Michael Newdow and Chris Leland was held at the Focus on the Family campus. The content of the debate was whether or not the American Pledge of Allegiance and its phrase "One Nation Under God" along with "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency violates the U.S. Constitution.
Rev. Dr. Newdow argues that since the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, making reference to the Deity in any governmental decrees or in any affairs directly related to the Federal Government is therefore unconstitutional. But since the U.S. Constitution doesn't mention any of the 50 virtues either (honesty, patience, humility, etc.), are we to conclude that no Federal proclamations can ever mention any of them?
Further, Newdow used the Establishment Clause — "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (Bill of Rights, Amendment I) and the fact that Article VI states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" to bolster his case. But again, the Establishment Clause says "Congress" shall not establish a religion; it doesn't prohibit the President or the Courts from mentioning God! In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court begins each session with its marshal proclaiming, "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."
Dr. Leland, on the other hand, argues that the U.S. Constitution needs to be studied in its context as one of our founding documents among The Declaration of Independence, George Washington's Farewell Address, and the Northwest Ordinance. While one of the four may not make an explicit reference to God per se, it too mentions "In the Year of our Lord" in Article VII and it exempts Sunday as part of a 10-day modus operandi for bills becoming law (Article I, Section 7).
Rev. Newdow did his best to separate the U. S. Constitution from the Declaration of Independence whose language includes "the Supreme Judge of the world," "Divine Providence," "endowed by their Creator," and "nature's God." Newdow never touched Washington's Farewell Address or the Northwest Ordinance, no doubt because they contain language that does not support his argument. Washington, for example, specifically mentions "religion and morality" as indispensible supports to political prosperity. And the Northwest Ordinance says, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Dr. Leland, however, cleverly connected the Constitution to the Declaration over the issue of liberty. The Preamble to the Constitution specifically mentions the securing of "the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." The Declaration places the notion of liberty within the following context: "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." Strangely, neither Newdow nor Leland mentioned Thomas Jefferson's most famous quote chiseled into the Jefferson Memorial: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God."
This debate was co-sponsored by Focus on the Family and the American Humanist Association and the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs. The bulletin handed out to attendees introduced Newdow as the "Rev. Dr. Michael Newdow . . . minister of the First Atheist Church of True Science (FACTS) . . . working to grow that Atheistic religious organization." If he wants to grow his atheistic religion he would indeed want to delete any mention of God from our coins and our pledge. Any good atheist would want to do the same. But note that Newdow is using the Courts (in this case California's most liberal Ninth Circuit) to further his cause, rather than the legislative approach through which the representatives of the people of the United States would make any decision to rewrite the pledge and retool our coins.
Note also that Newdow admits his humanism is a religion, verifying my contention that the American Humanist Association is a 501-C-3 tax exempt religious organization. We document this fact, of course, in the Revised Third Edition of Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism.
On page 159 of Clergy in the Classroom, I state, "On April 5, 2007, I called the IRS (toll-free) number 877.829.5500 and spoke to an agent in Cincinnati, Ohio. The agent verified that the American Humanist Association at 1777 T. Street N.W., Washington, DC 20009 is listed as a 501-C-3 tax exempt organization with a group exemption (meaning any other organizations under its umbrella name are also exempt). It is, the agent said, 'classified as a church.' Its Federal identification number is 94-6168317."
But Rev. Newdow is a bit ingenious. He wants the vast majority of believers in God (over 90 percent in the U.S.) to somehow accept his radical interpretation and never mind that we live in a democratic republic where there is "majority rule" in matters that its citizens consider important and fundamental. He continues to press the matter of "equality." But there already is equality before the law for believers and unbelievers alike in the United States. If 90 percent of the population is against rendering the notion of God obsolete from our country's founding documents and principles, changing them based on the principle of "equality under the law" cannot be a valid argument. God is as much a part of our heritage as any natural or supernatural being. All the founding fathers, including Thomas Paine (a true Deist), believed in the existence of God. (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were Unitarians.)
It is true that Newdow can draw some support from Thomas Jefferson. For example, Jefferson refused to issue any Presidential Proclamations because he did not want to mention God in any Federal decree. But it is also true that Washington, Adams, and Madison had no difficulty in doing so and these presidents were all involved in one way or another with the establishment of the Establishment Clause. This clause was never construed to outlaw the mention of God, but to insure that Congress would never establish and fund an official Church of America.
Madison's proclamation of March 4, 1815, asked the people of the United States "with religious solemnity" to observe a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgements of Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace." (See Robert L. Cord, Separation of Church and State: Historical Fact and Current Fiction along with David Barton's Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution & Religion for a point by point refutation of every argument offered by Newdow.)
In truth, there is absolutely nothing new in Newdow's argument. A generation ago, Leo Pfeffer argued every one of his points. Pfeffer was an A.C.L.U. lawyer in those days and wrote in the Journal of Church and State (1977) that Secular Humanism would some day triumph over Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism. He placed Secular Humanism squarely in the camp of the religions of the country. (See Robert L. Cord's refutation of Pfeffer in his chapter entitled "Resurrecting Madison and Jefferson.")
Remember that it was Pfeffer who "won" the 1961 Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins, but in reality that case has been a drag on all Secular Humanists since. Why? Because the Supreme Court stated, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others."
Paul Kurtz, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, recognized immediately that if Secular Humanism were a religion along with Christianity, Judaism, even Islam, he and his fellow atheists would have to remove their humanistic agenda (atheism, naturalism, ethical relativism, biological evolution, political world government, global warming propaganda, sex education with emphasis on homosexuality, abortion, women's studies, gay studies, black studies, undermining of the traditional family, perverse artistic freedom, embryonic stem cell research, federal control of education, anti-ROTC propaganda, etc.) from tax-financed public schools. Of course, Kurtz has no plans to change course until the U. S. Supreme Court rules against Secular Humanism's constant flow of liberal leftwing brainwashing and we re-establish fair and balanced public education.
One small step in the right direction has been accomplished. Because of the Torcaso v. Watkins decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago) decreed on August 19, 2005, that atheism itself is indeed a religion, finding, "The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a 'religion' for the purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions."
But now because Rev. Dr. Newdow, minister of the First Atheist Church of True Science, has declared that he is working to grow his atheistic religious organization, we don't have to go much further with the argument that Secular Humanism is indeed a religion.
If Newdow succeeds in deleting "In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God" from our coins and our pledge, his atheistic religious organization will grow. But only if 90 percent of the American public sleep at the switch and allow such a misreading of our history. I don't think the present Supreme Court will concur with Newdow. In fact, with one more conservative judge on the Court, we plan to bring the issue of Secular Humanism as a religion before the Court for a final decision on whether or not that religion can continue being taught as gospel in America's public schools. The fact that it is taught is covered in detail in my book Understanding The Times: The Collision of Today's Competing Worldviews, 2nd edition.