- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

This week, a five-member majority of the Supreme Court, presumably sensitive to the public outrage that would greet such a controversial decision in a presidential election year, refused to rule on the question of whether the Constitution allows public school students to voluntarily utter the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The justices reversed the anti-Pledge ruling of a lower court on technical grounds, leaving for another day the underlying issue.

It will return — and soon — because the liberal judges who control our courts have long been laying the precedents to expel God from our public life and our law. If enough constitutionalists are not confirmed to the courts to stop them, this era will see the formal and final divorce in the 2,000-year marriage of law and morality.

This is the marriage that begat American freedom.

“And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times, and there will be one master and one rule, that is, God, over us all, for He is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.” So wrote the Roman Senator Cicero a generation before Christ.

Almost two millennia after the fall of the Roman Republic, Thomas Jefferson, citing Cicero as an inspiration, wrote the words that gave birth to the American Republic. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” said Jefferson, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

The same Congress that approved the First Amendment, guaranteeing the free exercise of religion, asked President George Washington to declare a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” Washington complied, urging Americans to acknowledge the “many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Two centuries later, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a republic founded on God’s law in demanding an end to segregation.

“We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands,” said King.

“A just law” — insisted this 20th-century Baptist civil rights leader, citing St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th-century Catholic monk — “is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”

From Cicero to King, the Western tradition held the pursuit of justice and the pursuit of God’s law were the same.

But look how far we have fallen in the last 40 years.

With Justice Antonin Scalia having recused himself from the Pledge case because he had publicly expressed his views about it, a minority of only three (Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor) addressed the merits of the question before the court and ruled the Constitution allows public school students to say “under God.”

Justice Thomas directly challenged the court’s recent reasoning on religious issues, flatly declaring the Pledge constitutional for public schools. But Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor built their opinions on the dismal premise that the words “under God” in the Pledge mean little or nothing.

The Pledge, Chief Justice Rehnquist argued, “is a patriotic exercise, not a religious one; participants promise fidelity to our flag and our Nation, not to any particular God, faith, or church.”

The pre-Christian Cicero believed in one God whose laws were eternal and unchanging. Justice Rehnquist’s Pledge declines to subordinate America to “any particular God.” Why not Zeus or Apollo?

Justice O’Connor dismissed the words “under God,” along with the Supreme Court’s own invocation (“God save the United States and this honorable Court”), as examples of what she calls “ceremonial deism.” “Such references,” she says, “can serve to solemnize an occasion instead of to invoke divine provenance.”

It is constitutional, in other words, to take the Lord’s name in our public institutions as long as we take it in vain. Students reciting the Pledge who don’t want to violate the First Amendment must violate the Second Commandment.

Why has God’s name been driven to the brink of expulsion from American public life and law?

For decades, liberal judges have advanced their agenda by arbitrarily declaring “rights” that defy the Western legal tradition, articulated so well by Cicero, Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr., that just laws comport with God’s laws. They have declared peddling pornography, killing unborn babies and even same-sex marriage are “rights.”

These are not rights, they are wrongs. For judges to enshrine them permanently in our law, they must first unthrone God — and put themselves in His place.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor of Human Events and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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