Friday, July 21, 2006

Boldly Addressing The Pressing Issues Of Our Day

The Rubber Stamp Republican Congress has really been swimming around the shallow end of the legislative pool lately. In what I can only call tacit agreement with the charge that they are unable to govern, the Republicans in Congress have been busy debating a veritable treasure trove of pet wingnut projects. The Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was a spectacular flop. The Constitutional amendment banning flag burning was a very near miss (thanks, Diane Feinstein). Those two will, of course, be back sometime in the future.

Unfortunately, no matter how bumbling the Republican theocrats in the House may be, they eventually manage to pass one of their odious legislative initiatives. Their latest target: the Pledge of Allegiance. And, by God, they finally got one (from Reuters, via The Truth About Political Stuff):

In a move intended to preserve a reference to God in an oath recited by millions of Americans each day, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to prevent U.S. courts from hearing challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance.


"We're creating a fence. The fence goes around the federal judiciary. We're doing that because we don't trust them," said Missouri Rep. Todd Akin.

Yes, this is the most pressing issue the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives could find to debate. Or, rather, it was the only part of the wingnut cultural agenda they could actually get passed. I'm not an expert on legal matters, but I have to imagine that Akin's posturing above is not going to win him any friends within the federal judiciary. I also think it odd that Congress has the ability to set certain things beyond judicial review. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has it right by any reading of the constitution: the Pledge containing "under God" violates the First Amendment. It's explicitly co-mingling a pledge of loyalty to the country with a pledge of belief in the Christian God. It couldn't be much clearer and the Republicans obviously know this.

Christianity has long enjoyed the benefit of sneaking around the First Amendment. Our government engages in prayers led by Christian ministers, places mention of God in various parts of our national symbology and even requires government officials to swear on the Christian Bible their oath of office. Conservatives like to pretend that these represent our "Christian heritage" and are as much cultural as religious. While that may be true, that makes them no less a violation of our constitution. Furthermore, that "Christian culture" certainly applies very selectively to certain groups within the country, and doesn't apply much at all to others. I doubt the millions of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, etc., care much for having a Christian heritage pushed upon them as a condition of residency here. I know I certainly don't...

Now that challenges continue to mount questioning Christianity's special status, the Religious Right has come out locked-and-loaded with every weapon in its political arsenal. Their moral and spiritual arsenal has failed to institute the changes they desire, so the political is really all they have left. Even the very notion of using the levers of government power to institute Christian teachings is very questionable under Christian dogma. It's really a usurpation of free will, not unlike what other theocracies around the world do. Plus it's predicated on an historically inaccurate view of U.S. culture and the personal philosophies of our Founding Fathers.

Speaking of which, this has to be my favorite passage from the article:

Akin and other Republicans said the reference to God, added to the pledge in 1954, did not endorse any specific religion but referred to the philosophy of the country's founders that rights such as freedom of speech were granted by a divine being, not a government.

Bullshit. Apparently several of our Republican Representatives in Congress believe we, the people, are actually as stupid as they. No sir! There is no way the Knights of Columbus were referring to the deist sense of the divine when they petitioned the Eisenhower administration to add "under God" to the pledge. Nice try but the Pledge still doesn't pass Constitutional muster.

My biggest complaint in all this, aside from being reminded, yet again, that I'm an atheist in an extremely religious nation, is that it wastes time that could be spent on more substantive issues. I know it's been asked a thousand times by a thousand other progressives but, really, aren't there at least a few more important things the Congress could be doing other than protecting the cultural privilege of Christians? Last time I checked we had two wars we were fighting, a third we should be helping stop, millions without proper healthcare or medical insurance, a huge budget deficit and national debt, a growing economic crisis in the middle class, underfunded public education...the list goes on and on. But instead, the Republicans have to pretend they all flunked Civics 101 and throw a little red meat to their base. They should have to refund their salaries for however much time they spent on this worthless legislation.

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