This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the much anticipated Pledge of Allegiance case. The man challenging the pledge is Michael Newdow, an atheist whose daughter attends public school. And despite the fact that Newdow neither has a law degree nor seemingly a life, he has represented himself masterfully.
He has argued that the phrase “one nation under God” is religious in nature and therefore, establishes a state religion in violation of the 1st Amendment. To back up his position, he has employed a rather unorthodox legal strategy–the truth.
The phrase “one nation under God” isn’t just a string of words randomly included in the pledge. In fact, the phrase didn’t appear in the pledge until 1954, when it was added specifically for the purpose of acknowledging God.
Even more, Newdow has aligned his arguments with several recent Supreme Court cases outlawing prayer in school. Many of these decisions were authored by current members of the Supreme Court. Therefore, Newdow has placed the justices in an unenviable position.
If they rule against Newdow, then they will have to overturn their earlier decisions. This is the judicial equivalent of saying, “Oops, my bad!” This isn’t something that Supreme Court justices like to do. On the other hand, if the high court sides with Newdow, it will open the door to other challenges to such “radically religious songs” as God Bless America and America the Beautiful.
While this is a certainly a risk, I believe the court should ride the slippery slope and rule for Newdow. Our kids can live without reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each day. However, they shouldn’t have to live without the resources necessary for a good education because their school districts are squandering valuable funds fighting these cases in court. That money could be better spent on the essentials of a public school education–books, computers and bulletproof vests.
Besides, our government’s insistence on using the G-word is costing us big bucks in terms of lost revenue. For instance, our paper currency has the words “In God We Trust” printed on the back of it. Perhaps, instead of doing unauthorized P.R. work for God (that’s Mel Gibson’s job), the Treasury Department should be opening up this space for corporate advertising.
Think about it. The feds could enter into a name licensing agreement to rename the $1 bill as the “Starbuck.” Likewise, it could even sell ads on the back of bills. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to use coupons if they were printed right on the back of the money itself?
And let us not forget the front side of the bill. Currently, we reserve this most valuable advertising space to dead Presidents, who aren’t paying a single dime for the privilege. Why not sell that space to the highest bidder?
I imagine that Donald Trump would be willing to pay billions to have his face on the $20 bill. In fact, he would probably even be willing to get a haircut (or at least a decent toupee) for the picture. This would not only be a boon to the U.S. Treasury but also to those poor people who watch The Apprentice each week.
SEAN CARTER is a lawyer, public speaker, and the author of “If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit?–Your Humorous Guide to the Law“. He can be reached at www.lawpsided.com.