Much Ado About Nothing

The Court's calendar being as crowded as it is, we shouldn't be surprised that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals got around to playing its April Fool's joke in June.

In ruling that the words "under God" violated the First Amendment's clause prohibiting the establishment of religion, the learned black-robed ones were pulling our legs. How else could their decision be interpreted? Did they actually think that the recitation of the pledge, including the words "under God," by thousands of schoolchildren each day would somehow lead to the establishment of a state, i.e., federal, religion? (Several states had official religions at the adoption of the Constitution; the prohibition is against the establishment of an official religion by the U.S. Congress) Is there any evidence at all of such an event taking place? Of course not. The judges may be venal and corrupt, but almost certainly they are not stupid, or at least not THAT stupid.

The robed-ones have not taken me into their confidence, so I can only speculate as to the reason for their decision; but, obviously, it has nothing to do with any ominous or unlawful meaning to "under God." Religion in the United States plays about the same role in public affairs as does the inspection of the entrails of animals. The name of God is invoked in this country mainly vainly. However, it could have been predicted with virtual certainty that upon the Court's decision that the words "under God" rendered the pledge unconstitutional, that Americans who hadn't set foot in a Church in decades, or uttered His name except to blaspheme, would react with indignation and outrage. Indeed, maybe that was the point.

The attacks of 911 brought forth such a swell of patriotism that, in its heady wake, our rulers could impose the most outrageous extensions of unlawful and improper government authority with scarcely a peep of protest. Perhaps it's time to create another burst of patriotic fervor to justify some new extension of that power.

The pledge of allegiance, after all, has been around for a long time, and it was offensive long before the words "under God" were added. "Allegiance," says my dictionary, refers to the relationship between a vassal and his feudal lord. What? It also designates the duty owed by a citizen to his government! How's that? The people were here long before the government. Indeed, government is the people's (ill-conceived) creation. "We the People" brought it into existence, to serve us. Properly, then, government officials should swear allegiance to us. The government never tires of referring to itself as a servant; indeed, government workers are said to be in public service, and refer to themselves as public servants. Who, then, is the master? We are, of course! Does the sovereign swear allegiance to the servant? Does he place himself, with respect to his servant, in the position of a vassal to his lord? Does he have a duty or obligation toward his servant, other than that of compensating him for his service?

The pledge, in other words, is backwards; but having been written by a socialist, is no doubt intended to be that way. It insinuates into the minds of the children reciting it a sense of subordination to the government, while encouraging them to consider taking the pledge a patriotic act. By declaring the pledge unconstitutional on the preposterous grounds of its inclusion of the words "under God," the 9th Circuit has re-kindled the fires of bogus patriotism. Expect further assaults upon your freedom, such of it as remains!

July 5, 2002

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay, which will soon be available at