The Pledge of Allegiance and Vouchers
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Two court decisions rocked the USA in the last week of June 2002. The Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers are Constitutional even if they are also used to pay tuition in parochial (religious) schools. The vouchers do not establish religion, because the parents have a free choice as to which school to have their children attend.
In another case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in government schools is not Constitutional, because it contains the wording "under God," thus establishing a religion. Even though a student is not forced to recite the Pledge, if only one student refuses, then he could be subject to taunting and harassment.
These two decisions were correct. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits "an establishment of religion." This involves not just an establishment of a particular religion but religion as such. And "God" implies religion. Congress improperly added the words "under God" to the Pledge in 1954.
There is a connection between these two cases. If California, where the Pledge case originated, had a voucher system that gave students and parents a neutral financial choice as to which school to attend, then the Pledge case would have properly gone the other way. Because in that case, an atheist parent could, with no financial sacrifice, send his child to a private school that does not involve religion. But because schooling is compulsory and parents paying tuition still have to tax-support government schools, the atheist parent is being imposed on.
Some argue that the Pledge case is trivial. Personally, I would not have initiated such a case even if I objected to the Pledge. But it was not trivial to the parent who did raise the issue. And it is certainly not trivial to the State and Federal politicos who have raised a big fuss about it. It is rather pathetic that almost all politicians are bleating about how the vast majority of Americans want to say "under God," putting religion above the Constitution. Are they saying that if a majority does not like a Constitutional provision, it no longer applies?
Some argue that if "under God" is unconstitutional, then so too is "In God We Trust" as inscribed in U.S. currency. That is not necessarily so. Why would one assert that we "trust" God? The implication is that our trust is not to government officials, but to a greater being. Government officials are supposed to be public servants, whom the electorate should watch carefully and critically for any abuse of power. We do not and should not put our "trust" in government. Only God - whether a superhuman being or the laws of nature - would deserve our trust.
The motto is inscribed in fiat money. The token coins and paper bills have no intrinsic value. We use these objects for commerce, but we are rightly told not to worship the money nor to worship the issuer of the fiat money. We are warned right on the currency that it could become worthless!
If we trust the higher power and not elected and appointed fallible human beings, then we should not trust them to provide a good education; let the competitive market work to provide schooling according to the desires of the parents and students. And if we truly trust God and not men, then how can a child truly believe in God if he is pressured to chant "under God" rather than seek and believe of his own free will? Should we trust politicians to establish belief?
We will now see a renewed effort to expand school choice. Meanwhile, the Pledge case will be appealed. We will see how faithful the courts are to our Constitution, the highest law of the land.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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