Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 07.08.02


What is it about separation you don't understand?

My new hero is Michael Newdow, the man who sued in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the words Under God in the pledge of allegiance.

Dr. Newdow, who is an atheist, thought it a breech of the separation of church and state that his daughter would have to listen to a de facto advertisement for Christianity. His tax dollars were helping to finance the school and why should his daughter have to fall under the aegis of any "God"?

In a rare moment of clarity the court decided to find in favor of Dr. Newdow.

Evangelical Christians, politicians, and fundamentalist zealots from coast to coast reacted as if they had been smacked in the face with a large hagfish. What a tidal wave of grandstanding and hypocrisy followed that decision. The rusty gears of government ground to a halt while all of our members of the House of Representatives raced outside (where the light for photos was better) and recited the pledge on the steps of the Capitol Building.

< Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader, pronounced the decision "just nuts." Thanks, Tom, for that cogent bit of reasoning. Our President took time out from planning some "strategery" to call the ruling "ridiculous." John Ashcroft, our Attorney General and unofficial U.S. Pope, was rumored to have broken out in a rash of stigmatas when hearing the news that someone was trying to enforce a separation of church and state. He was last seen re-enacting the seven stages of the cross near the Washington Monument. Senators, who were debating a defense bill, called a halt to proceedings and angrily denounced the decision unanimously before they fled to the nearest network news team to proclaim their belief in the Almighty and his favorite country the good ole U.S. of A. One of the posturing fulminators tried to attack the decision by pointing out several other hypocritical threads that are woven into the fabric of American society.

"In God We Trust" is on our currency and we swear before God before we take the stand in a court proceeding. Yes, it is true that we put God on our money and swear to Him in court. Those, too, should be expunged from any pluralistic society.

Yes, it is a tradition to call upon God to involve himself in our great governmental enterprise. It is unfair and undemocratic to do so. Our government has a history of ignoring the rules that counter the philosophy of the ruling party. During the reign of George Bush Senior there were scant few prosecutions of terrorists who bombed or damaged family planning clinics.

Bush Sr. and his minions did not believe in abortion. Therefore, the law was ignored.

Interesting. We still maintain our prejudices when it suits us even if they violate the very tenets that this country is based upon. How else can we explain the preponderance of minorities on death row? Why do we execute black men for the same crime that gets a white man life imprisonment?

Like the separation of church and state, we pay lip service to the principle of all people equal before the law but ignore the reality with a nudge and a wink. This simple interpretation of a very simple principle will soon be overturned, burned at the stake, and drawn and quartered. Religion is oozing into the cracks in our society more and more.

Recently, the Supreme Court rendered its decision legalizing the practice of giving school vouchers to parents who want their children to attend religious schools. This practice of giving my tax money to those who want to send their kids to a Catholic or Jewish school no longer violates the principle of the separation of church and state. It is a ludicrous decision based on pressure from the religious right who know what is best for all of us. Our government is not yet an American Taliban but we are on the way.

When we tell children that our nation is "Under God" we are excluding those who don't believe in God or don't believe in a Judeo-Christian God.

When you use my tax money to fund your religion you are violating my rights.

When you ask me to swear in court to a God I don't believe in, you are foisting your religion on me. You think it's no big deal? You think it is PC gone amok? Well, how honest are any of our principles if our leaders will only enforce the popular ones?

If we can't endure the exclusion of God in our government, then we should consider an amendment that invites him in the front door and ends the solemn mockery of our laws. Given the current climate of religious fervor the amendment will be unanimous. However, only certain Gods need apply. Dr. Newdow will eventually lose his suit against the government. His victory will be in exposing the fact that our emperor is as naked as a jaybird.