Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ok, Maybe I Wasn't Ready For Some Football....


Because neither were the Titans apparently. Bleh, that was ugly. We'll see if they can turn things around this Sunday against the hated Ravens. Hatesssess them I do...

Some other news of note that I have been following recently:

A federal judge ruled that the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional-
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation ''under God'' violates school children's right to be ''free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.''

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

Here's my take: I do believe that the phrase "under God" does in fact represent a coercive requirement to affirm God, no matter how weak that coercion may be. Yes, most kids today wouldn't care one way or the other. No, it's not a particularly pressing issue facing us today. But it will be in the future. The point I have made before in various arguments is that there are certain privileges afforded Christianity in the US today by our laws. For one, the priest-confessional privilege seems to put Christian priests on the level of doctors or lawyers when it comes to evidence related to a trial. You can confess to murdering someone in a Christian confessional and it can't be used against you in court. How many religions that extends to, or whether or not it should be extended at all is something worth arguing over. Another is the Muslim Call to Prayer Vs. Christian Church Bells (which technically are calls to prayer). Church bells aren't really that bothersome to me. I'm not religious so all they do is wake me up for a minute and I go back to sleep. But if you had some guy screaming at me in Arabic for a couple of minutes at 4:30 in the morning and four more times a day afterwards(which is what the Muslim call to prayer consists of), I will have a serious issue. So in order to keep things from being hypocritical, they should both be abolished. If you can have one and not the other, then you are preferring one religion over another, therefore seriously violating the very first amendment of our constitution that says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..."

This brings me to my next bit of news which is the confirmation hearings of John Roberts, whom Bush nominated for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (You can see and hear these hearings here). For the answer to the $64,000 question of how Roberts will rule in regards to the religious issues listed above, I give you this exchange between Senator Feinstein and Roberts-

FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.

I would like to ask a question or two on church and state. I mentioned in my opening statement that, for centuries, people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs. And our country grows more diverse every day, and tensions among different beliefs have grown.

I really believe that there is a brilliance in what the founding fathers did in drafting the First Amendment and how it protected an individual's right to practice their belief, whatever it may be, but also protect against using religion against individuals by prohibiting the government from becoming and/or imposing religion.

In 1960, there was much debate about President John F. Kennedy's faith and what role Catholicism would play in his administration. At that time, he pledged to address the issues of conscience out of a focus on the national interests, not out of adherence to the dictates of one's religion.

And he even said, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

My question is: Do you?

ROBERTS: Senator, I think the reason we have the two clauses in the Constitution in the First Amendment reflects the framers' experience.

Many of them or their immediate ancestors were fleeing religious persecution. They were fleeing established churches. And it makes perfect sense to put those two provisions together: no establishment of religion and guaranteeing free exercise. That reflected the framers' experience.

FEINSTEIN: You can't answer my question yes or no?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't know what you mean by absolute separation of church and state.

For example, recently in the Ten Commandments case, the court upheld a monument on the Texas Capitol grounds that had the Ten Commandments in it. They struck down the posting of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse.

Is it correct to call the monument on the Texas Capitol grounds with the Ten Commandments, is that an absolute separation or is that an accommodation of a particular monument along with others that five of the justices found was consistent with the First Amendment?

So I don't know what that means when you say absolute separation. I do know this: that my faith and my religious beliefs do not play a role in judging. When it comes to judging, I look to the law books and always have. I don't look to the Bible or any other religious source. (ed.-my emphasis)

As long as Roberts truly means that, then I think he deserves the confirmation. I have read through much of his confirmation hearings and he seems to truly understand just how important the first amendment is. Is is literally impossible to think that we can have an absolute separation of church and state. There are simply too many religious traditions within our culture to expect a fully secular government. Not only that, but considering more than 60% of our country is religious (if not more) and regularly attends a house of worship, it is unrealistic to think that we will have politicians that can get elected on a secular platform.

What I'm concerned about is keeping our government from establishing one religion over another. Either you let every religion bang their church bells at whatever hours they want, or no one gets to. Either you mention every deity imaginable in the pledge of allegiance or mention none. It will be a slippery slope if we do not.

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