Strike Down This

Robert Alt

May 1, 2002

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—the most commonly reversed Court of Appeals in the nation—seems convinced that they don’t get reversed on appeal enough. How else can you explain their decision yesterday striking down the Pledge of Allegiance? If they wish to go down the slippery-slope, there is little I can do but to grease the skids. Therefore as a public service I offer to the Ninth Circuit a gravely incomplete list of similar references to God and religion which by their reasoning unmistakably establish a State theocracy.

The Ninth Circuit sits in California, so where better to start than the California Constitution, which states in its preamble: "We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution." Of course, there are other State Constitutions in the Ninth Circuit that clearly must be unconstitutional as well. Gone is Arizona: "We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution." Don’t bet on Nevada: "We the people of the State of Nevada Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom in order to secure its blessings, insure domestic tranquility, and form a more perfect Government, do establish this Constitution."

Then there is the National Anthem, the last verse of which reads: "And this be our motto: ’In God is Our Trust." Boy, it’s a good thing the national anthem isn’t "God Bless America." The last line of the Anthem leads us naturally to the National Motto itself, "In God We Trust," which is printed on our coins and paper money. Oh well, if you listen to the McCain-Feingold crowd, money is the root of all evil anyway.

Then there are the courts themselves. Beginning with the local courthouses: all those Bibles used for oaths have to go. Then there is the serious constitution violator: the Supreme Court. The Court sits in a chamber whose doors are carved with the Ten Commandments. The Justices enter to the cry "God save this honorable Court" and take their seats beneath Moses and the Ten Commandments, which are carved above them in stone. Across the street, Congress begins each session with prayer, and on the steps of the Capitol, the President is sworn in by placing his hand on a Bible and saying an oath which ends "so help me God."

The list goes on, but there are limits to how many cases the Ninth Circuit can take. This should give them a few to fill their docket, and to assure that they are overturned for years to come.

Robert Alt is an Adjunct Fellow of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, Ohio.