Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Slippery Slope...

Being logically consistent. It's sometimes difficult to do - and still be true to your worldview. But it can also be dangerous, especially when one takes the expected logical steps towards a worldview's conclusion. In Establishing Free Exercise, Vincent Phillip Muñoz, writing in the December 2003 issue of First Things, gives us an analysis of the Supreme Court's view, as of late, of the "free exercise" portion of the First Amendment. He contrasts the verdicts that have come down and how they relate both with "free exercise" and "no establishment." He begins with, "If conservative and liberal church-state scholars agree on one thing, it is that the Supreme Court’s religious liberty jurisprudence is a disaster. No single rule exists to guide decision making. The various doctrines employed are, at best, inconsistent and, at worst, blatantly contradictory. Divisions on the Court run so deep that actions demanded by “free exercise” according to some Justices violate “no-establishment” according to others. The result is an ever shifting, case-by-case jurisprudence based on narrow factual questions that encourages neither the rule of law nor a robust protection of religious freedom." Munoz describes the Newdow case in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in a Public School was unconstitutional because it contains the words, "one nation under God." Yet, as Munoz shows, taken to its logical conclusion, this ruling is absurd. "The Pledge case reveals that something has gone drastically wrong with Establishment Clause jurisprudence. If the Pledge is unconstitutional, so too are teacher-led recitations of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln claimed “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Teaching public school students that the Declaration of Independence is true—that our rights are, in fact, “endowed by our Creator” and that the American Revolution was just according to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—would violate the Constitution. Even an invited performer signing “God Bless America” at a government-sponsored event, like a local county fair, would be constitutionally suspect. Newdow confirms what critics have long claimed: that pushed to its logical conclusion, the various “wall of separation” constructions of the Establishment Clause are hostile toward religious sentiment and drive religion out of the public square. The case demonstrates that the current interpretations of the Establishment Clause are not neutral and are unworkable and thus fit the criteria for being overturned." I'm not a lawyer, and I don't pretend to understand the legal system to any profound degree. But what I do understand are contradictions, double-standards, and inconsistencies. Those are things that most plain folk can see without the benefit of a J.D. I was called for jury-duty a few years ago and the case in which I was up for had to do with two counts of murder. It seems that a pregnant prostitute was killed as was her unborn child (although the child wasn't referred to in those terms in court). I was struck by the inconsistency in the fact that someone could be brought to trial for murder, for killing a woman's unborn child, but this same woman would have been permitted to have an abortion performed on the same child. What gives? A lot of legal mumbo-jumbo couched in an unhealthy worldview is what gives.

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