The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My "Heckler's Veto"

Marlin Pinnell (Globe, Oct. 17th) states that a federal judge ruled that “the reference to one nation ‘under God’ violates school children’s right to be free from a coercive requirement to affirm God as their belief.” A reference to “under God” has never been and will never be unconstitutional without a fight from me but the phrase is not what was found unconstitutional. Here is the Judges’ remark in context: “…the school district’s policy with regard to the pledge is an unconstitutional violation of children’s right to be free from a coercive requirement to affirm God”

Saying “under God,” or “praise Jesus,” is perfectly legal and, in fact, protected, by among other things the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The government forcing teachers and compelling students to recite a given religious assertion is what is improper. While most Christians are ok with the government affirming religious beliefs in America, I suspect they might not so much like it in Iran.

The courts would strike down any legislation declaring America ‘under Jesus’ and Jews would be protected from the government legitimizing anti-Semitism. The real issue in this case is that prejudice against atheists and agnostics has popular support whereas anti-Semitism has got a bit of a bad name. This is why Justice O'Connor referred to objections on Establshment Clause grounds by atheists as a "heckler's veto."

We have the responsibility, Justice O'Connor, to stand up for all minorities, not just those which are considered worthy by a given social context. In fact, history has illustrated that it is the unpopular minorities, which are most vulnerable to mistreatment.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Our Conscience

In an Oct. 6th Oped in the Joplin Globe Ray Alexander writes the following:

"Why are we letting the judges take God out of our schools? Why can’t our children quote the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms?"

Ray's misunderstanding of judicial action relative to the Establishment Clause is common in Southwest Missouri. Even if atheist Michael Newdow won his case before the Supreme Court, children could still say the pledge in public school, the government would simply not be able to force teachers to recite it. What weakens religion in America are people who desire to use the machinery of the government to promote their apparently insecure beliefs.

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." ~Thomas Jefferson