Under God in the pledge. In God We Trust on dollar bills. And the line God save the United States and this honorable court to begin each session of the Supreme Court. Add these examples to the fact that public opinion polls and members of Congress overwhelmingly back this juxtaposition of god and country, and you can see that Michael A. Newdow will have an uphill battle in convincing Supreme Court justices to order the removal of the words “under god” from the pledge in case being heard today.
Newdow’s personal brand positioning doesn’t help matters much. Neither Californians nor atheists have all that much popular support when it comes to matters religious, moral and patriotic (all on display in the reactions to the case). So a “California atheist” who is representing himself in court has about will have about as much throw when it comes to shifting public opinion as Howard Stern would have in front of the Co-Op board in Michael Powell’s building.
Does one’s own religion matter when it comes to forming an opinion about this case? People often ask me if I am a practicing Jew. I usually respond that I only show up on gamedays. But I want Judaism out of politics just as much as any other religion. I couldn’t care less what Joe Lieberman thinks of Moses and Abraham. I care what he thinks about social security and taxes. (Caveat: I did experiment some with Hadassah’s Matzoh Ball Soup recipe during the height of the 2000 campaign.)
And let’s not pretend that the word “god” that appears in all these places is some reference to the general idea of religion and faith. You know exactly which god were talking about (especially if you believe in something else).
I wonder if the reaction to Newdow’s argument would be more positive if he were an extremely religious man (I see no conflict in one having a strong religious affiliation and also wanting god out of the pledge).
It would be even more interesting if the entire debate could be turned inside out. Instead of an atheist arguing god has no place in the secular and nationalistic pledge, how about a religious person arguing that they don’t want secularism and nationalism to taint their religion? Is it so far fetched to imagine a learned rabbi or priest arguing that they don’t want the name of the Lord to appear on currency?