- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

No court decision in years has so aroused the nation and Congress as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that the phrase, "under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. And the outrage continues.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell has urged a campaign of mass civil disobedience by school officials to keep "under God" in the pledge. So has the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. And George W. Bush's reaction to the inflammatory decision is that it proves the nation's need for "common sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God."
The president has said that he has no litmus tests when deciding whom he will nominate for the federal bench, but his above statement is clearly such a test. He has declared that judges who believe that our rights come from God "are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench."
New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton appears to have joined Mr. Bush in this conviction. When Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry a free-thought, secular magazine asked her view of the removal "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, she wrote:
"I believe the court misinterpreted the intent of the framers of the Constitution and instead undermined one of the bedrocks of our democracy, that we are indeed, 'one nation under God.'"
What if a highly qualified lower-court judge, recommended by both liberal and constitutional scholars for a seat on a federal circuit court, had candidly written an article saying that his only religion is the Constitution? The judge does not attend religious services, and makes a point of emphasizing that there is no mention of God in the Constitution. When pressed, this jurist admits a firm belief that our rights come only from the compact among our people that is the Constitution. This judge respects religious beliefs, but has none.
The president has said he would not nominate that person to a higher court. And if Mrs. Clinton were on a future judiciary committee, would she be able to vote for a person who, on taking the oath, would undermine "a bedrock of our democracy" by omitting God?
And what do the president, Mrs. Clinton, the Rev. Falwell and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention say about the command of Article VI of the Constitution, in which the Framers said unequivocally that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States?"
Shall there be a campaign for a constitutional amendment to strike that clause from the Constitution and insert a requirement that anyone nominated or elected to public office must affirm that we are "one nation under God," from whom shall our rights flow?
It is certain, in any case, that aside from being 78 years old, Judge Alfred Goodwin, a Nixon appointee to the Ninth Circuit (and the judge who removed "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance) will never be appointed to the Supreme Court. Which member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of either party, would imperil his or her political future by voting for Judge Goodwin?
Yet, the judicial track record of this World War II Army captain is described in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a non-ideological newspaper of legal news and analysis, as "a judge's judge." He is known by fellow judges, law clerks and lawyers who have appeared before him in his 47 years on the bench as apolitical, independent and, until now, remarkably free of controversy.
Reports the Los Angeles Daily Journal: "Fewer than six of the 761 rulings he has written have resulted in re-hearings before the entire Ninth Circuit. Only a few of those led to reversal and fewer still were reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court."
Ronald Olson, a partner in a Los Angeles law firm, says the judge is "an extraordinarily fair-minded judge who does not come to any case with any sort of overpowering ideology." And Michael Berman, a lawyer and former clerk for Judge Goodwin, says: "He won't shy away from results that are unpopular, but he has very little ego. He is unafraid of where the law leads."
And, in the case that has led to Judge Goodwin being vilified across the country, the Constitution led him to decide that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance "impermissibly takes a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God… It's a declaration of religious belief."
Constitutionally, he is indeed correct, however controversial.
Yet, Judge Goodwin is lucky he hasn't been tarred and feathered.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide