- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

One nation under God?

To answer the question posed by Patrick J. Buchanan’s Op-Ed “Are we God’s country, or not?” (Friday) I would refer him to the first sentence of the Constitution, which begins with “We the People … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Mr. Buchanan claims that this is a Christian nation, but God is not mentioned anywhere in our Constitution. In fact, the United States was the first nation in history to set up a secular government. Our Founding Fathers, many of whom were religious, must have had good reasons for building “a wall of separation between church and state,” as described by President Jefferson. Perhaps they knew a thing or two about history. They knew that a government that supports one God must inevitably deny others. They had experienced religious intolerance and war firsthand and did not want their newly formed nation torn apart.

This is not “one nation under God,” because those words were not part of the Pledge of Allegiance until Congress inserted them in 1954. Furthermore, the slogan “In God We Trust” did not appear on paper currency until 1956. Our original U.S. motto is “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “out of many, one.” This motto, chosen by the likes of Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, celebrates plurality and is completely secular. Our government’s unconstitutional endorsement of God in the 1950s clearly moved against the intentions of our Founding Fathers.

Mr. Buchanan also claims that the Supreme Court is somehow trying to “de-Christianize” America (which, as stated before, has never been a Christian nation) and establish “state atheism as our national religion.” First, atheists have no belief in the supernatural and therefore are nonreligious. Atheists reject all religions, which is the point of atheism. Second, the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” America is bound to religious neutrality and cannot establish any “state religion,” such as Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Satanism, Scientology, Buddhism, Taoism, agnosticism, atheism, etc. The Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to believe, or not believe, whatever they wish.

It is disturbing that Mr. Buchanan supports the antics of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. He was rightly suspended for breaking the laws that he swore to uphold. He is free to believe in God, to go to church, to teach his children about the Bible, to shout his faith from the rooftops, but he is not free to force his beliefs on the public. Justice Moore covertly installed a religious monument inside the courthouse rotunda, which is public property paid for by the taxpayers and visited by citizens of every race, culture and religious background. What would he say to those citizens who find the Ten Commandments offensive yet still must do business at the courthouse? He does not seem to care that such a display would make many people feel like second-class citizens. Obviously, he is more interested in promoting his own religion than serving the people of Alabama.

Mr. Buchanan calls for a “counter-revolution to overthrow this rule of judges” exposes your enmity to basic civil liberties. Like Justice Moore, he would like to impose his personal religious beliefs upon the citizens of a free democracy. Federal court Judge Myron Thompson and Justices David Souter, John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg should be commended for doing their duty to protect the law and refuse the demands of extremists such as Justice Moore and yourself.

Our Founding Fathers wisely made provisions to keep government and religion separate. Their construction of our secular government was a milestone in the history of nations and can be credited for much of our success. Mr. Buchanan’s desire to establish a theocracy and alienate dissenting opinions is truly un-American.

J. PATTON

London, Ky.

No matter what I may or may not think of the Bible, I’m not going to delude myself into believing that it had little meaning to the Founding Fathers or that its role in the formulation of our legal code was minimal — that would be a pathetic rewrite of history.

Even heathen legal scholars acknowledge the frequency with which biblical sentences are paraphrased in our early legal documents. I may not like it, but I’m enough of a scholar to acknowledge it. It might be wise to add Hammurabi’s Code and a couple of others to the display, but it is intellectually dishonest to remove the Ten Commandments as an irrelevant precedent. No code had a greater effect on the Founding Fathers’ draftsmanship. Even I must acknowledge that. Removal is knee-jerk anti-religionism against a monument that offends no one and appears to inspire a certain community.

PETER HUMPHREY

Rockville, Md.

Negotiating with nukes

Michael O’Hanlon’s solution for “Dealing with danger from North Korea” (Op-Ed, Monday) is exactly the wrong way to handle the present problem.

First, relying on the Chinese to assist us with their neighbor in the mistaken belief that it is in China’s best interest is absurd. It is in China’s best interest to keep North Korea militarily active because it acts as a perfect trump card to play to keep us focused there and not on what the Chinese are ultimately planning for Taiwan.

Second, feeding the dictator’s people bolsters the dictator and merely repeats the error of our old ways. Well-fed people are not likely to want to see the man who is feeding them replaced. He gives his food to the military, anyway. If it is possible for the bottom to fall out any further in that economy, we should actively encourage that to happen.

Third, Kim Jong Il is weak now. That he was hiding in a bomb shelter when we attacked Iraq speaks volumes about his sense of safety. We should assure him of nothing.

Last, we should seize the moment. The nuclear plants must go. It doesn’t have to be an announced plan of attack. As a matter of fact, if we pull it off, we should deny it. But the plants must be blown up.

Mr. Kim wants to survive more than anything else. He knows he won’t survive a war with the United States, and he knows he won’t survive a revolution. As for him attacking the South, he knows this would be his death knell. At best, he can hope to preserve the status quo, buying time so he can live longer. This is all he cares about, so why give him time money, food and encouragement to hold out?

Is it a risk to act? Yes, but far smaller than doing nothing. I fear our foreign policy is weak, our words are open to interpretation, and, incredibly, there are those in the State Department and elsewhere who want to openly eliminate the military option altogether.

A quiet message ought to be sent to this frightened man: Dismantle the nukes now or we’re coming for you. When he understands we mean it, he’ll talk. And if he’s foolish enough not to signal that he will talk, the next cloud he sees rising in the horizon should be his nuclear plants disappearing.

PAUL JOSEPH WALKOWSKI

Dorchester, Mass.

Generic competition among prescriptions

Robert Goldberg (“Patently absurd,” Op-Ed, Tuesday) seriously distorts Oxfam’s opposition to the recently concluded World Trade Organization deal on drug patents. Oxfam, which Mr. Goldberg refers to as a “so-called humanitarian organization,” is working in developing countries to increase access to lifesaving medicines. Oxfam staff in more than 100 countries witness every day the difficulty patients in poor countries have in getting the drugs they need to stay alive. One of Oxfam’s concerns regarding the WTO deal that Mr. Goldberg supports is that it imposes burdensome requirements that producers must follow before producing and exporting generic drugs. In addition, it appears to require that generics producers operate on a not-for-profit basis. Oxfam’s concern is that most companies will not supply generics under those conditions, especially if they will not make any profits.

Generic competition is crucial to bringing down the cost of medicines in both the developed and developing world. For this reason, Oxfam endorses allowing generic competition, especially in poor countries where public health resources are scarce and people pay out of pocket for medicines. Mr. Goldberg’s column, besides paying little heed to the reality of WTO patent laws, fails to recognize the critical role generics play in protecting the world’s poorest from treatable diseases.

JENNIFER BRANT

Trade policy adviser

Oxfam America

Washington

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