Atheist tests

CNJ Editorial

Well, here we go again. America’s most famous atheist, Michael Newdow, renewing his fight to get the Pledge of Allegiance banished from our public schools, has found a federal judge who agrees the “under God” part abridges the First Amendment.

As a newspaper championing individual liberty, we first must affirm Newdow’s right not only to voice his opinion freely but to challenge in open court a cultural icon that is accepted and even revered by millions of Americans as an affirmation of our fundamental values as a nation.

We also must point out that our nation’s Founders maintained that the liberty Newdow so vigorously exercises was endowed not by man but by his Creator — God, if you will — and thus is inviolate by man.

This is no trivial matter. While millions of Americans — of all faiths, and no faith — have defended our freedoms on the field of battle, individual liberty itself was perceived by this nation’s Founders as our birthright as human beings, to which every person on this Earth is entitled, not only Americans.

Our nation stands upon that principle, and there should be no constitutional conflict with students stating it out loud, in unison, in our public schools. Of course, being the land of liberty, any child who objects on conscientious grounds to stating either the Pledge or a portion of it should have the option of simply remaining silent.

But they shouldn’t prohibit others from reciting it. Rather, they should respect the right of others to verbally affirm America’s Founding principles.

That being said, we do have a little problem with the Pledge, as we do with any oath that is regularly recited from rote memory when an authority figure gives the command.

While some youngsters may actually think about the words they are reciting, we suspect many simply mouth them dutifully as they think about something else.

A more meaningful exercise would be thorough study and discussion of the nation’s Founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, which articulates the bedrock American principle of individual liberty as an endowment from our Creator.

We earnestly hope this is taking place in our schools and that the views of every student — regardless of their faith, or non-faith — are heard.

Because that is what this great nation, under God, is all about.