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February 7, 2004

I Pledge Allegiance

Japanese Children Pledge Allegiance
Japanese WW-2 Relocation Order

Our Supreme Court will soon decide whether the words, "under God" belong in the Pledge of Allegiance that most USA school children stand and recite at the start of their school day. I graduated from high school in 1954, the same year that Congress added those two words to the pledge, so I was not then confronted with the dilemma that today faces Dr. Newdow and his daughter. I did not escape entirely however. As a fresh-caught lawyer in the early '80's, my first job was with a law firm in Redding that covered all of Northern California. As the junior member of the crew, it was my lot to make a number of the early morning calendar calls in the surrounding counties. So it was that I frequently found myself in the Butte County Courthouse located in Oroville, California, in a packed courtroom with many other junior lawyers.

It was the practice of the Presiding Judge in that court to begin the business of the day by picking out one of the assembled counsel at random to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Each time that the judge's gaze passed over me I tried hard to make myself invisible. I knew that if he picked me I would have a problem. As a retired naval officer and a Vietnam Vet, I did not see how my allegiance to my Country could be in doubt. It was those two words that were the problem. I did not believe then, and I do not believe now, that an expression of belief in God, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, or any other deity has any business in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Constitution says it doesn't, and that is good enough for me. So, what if I should choke on those two words? Worse yet, what if I said them in hypocritical fashion? Fortunately, I was never called on to lead the pledge, and when I placed my right hand over my heart and recited it with the others, no one seemed to notice that I was two words short.

US Flag

June 14, 2004, Epilogue

The Court rendered its decision; a classic non-decision it was. Not surprisingly, the majority ducked the merits of the issue, and dismissed the case on an issue of standing. As one commentator observed, there was no way the Court could have preserved the pledge language on valid legal grounds, and no way that they could have stricken the offensive language on political grounds. It was just as well they did not reach the merits I suppose, as politics trumps the law every time. One need only look back to the shameful actions of the Court in interfering with a state court decision on a state law matter in the last presidential election to see these forces at work. Anyone who thinks that the judicial branch of our government is apolitical is suffering from terminal naivete. The Founders did all they could in Article III to insulate the judiciary, but all of our courts are, after all, comprised of human beings.

Supreme Court entrance

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