The Neosecularist

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Atheism Not Unpatriotic – But Minority Rule Is

Atheism as a philosophical point of view is neither unpatriotic nor un-American.  However, when atheists seek to have something of a religious nature removed from the public square without the consent or support of the majority, that is unpatriotic and un-American – and unconstitutional.  There are times when one person ought not be able to make a difference, like this case in Massachusetts, like so many others involving atheists around the country.  Subverting the will of the majority through legal channels misses the mark of rationality, common sense and decency.

In Middlesex Superior Court on Monday, David Niosie, the family’s lawyer asked that the words be taken out of the expression of loyalty to America. According to the attorney, the term “under God” forces the children to engage in an activity that “defines patriotism according to a particular religious belief.”

“Every day these kids go to school and the pledge is recited declaring that the nation is in fact under God,” Niosie went on to tell a FOX25 reporter. “That marginalizes them and suggests that people who don’t believe in God are less patriotic.”

That an atheist would be bothered with the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is understandable, from a secular outlook.  But if one person, or even a small group – a limited minority – of people can legally and constitutionally tread on the rights of the majority, and prevent the majority from having a voice, what is going to happen when/if atheism becomes the majority in a community and one or two religious citizens sue to have some form of religious script, placard, banner, etc. be included because they feel left out and unrepresented?  Would atheists then be swayed, out of remembrance for their own struggles, to succumb to that point of view?  Probably not.

Why should it be any different when the majority is comprised of religious citizens who support religious influences in their communities, be that influence the Ten Commandments, a religious seal on a city emblem, a Christmas tree, religious Christmas carols sung by school students – or including the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance?

The American Constitution was designed, in part, to protect the minority from certain harms which might be committed by an unruly majority (mob rule) and governments influenced by those unruly majorities.  That the minority would even have rights, and rights which were legally protected, was a novel and daring concept in its day.  And one of the top reasons why so many millions of people from around the world, since America’s founding, have risked life and death to come to America and to be Americans.

While the Constitution protects the minority from mob rule, it’s hard to accept that civilized citizens, supporting something, anything of a religious nature be included within their community is consistent with mob rule.  If the majority wanted atheists fined, jailed or even exiled from the community, that would be unconstitutional, and an infringement on the rights of atheists simply for being atheists.   Being an atheist, in other words, is not illegal or unconstitutional.  Neither is being religious, or expressing and affirming one’s religious values.  And having those religious values reflected and incorporated even in public schools – if the majority of citizens in that community support it – is not mob rule.  But it is majority rule.  And so long as it is the citizens, and not the government itself, there is nothing unconstitutional about it.

If it was government itself demanding “under God” be included, then there would be a legal case.  However, if it is the citizens within the community, by a majority, that support the inclusion of the phrase “under God”, then that is constitutionally permissible.  Private citizens are not the government.  They are neither being paid to represent the government nor are they voting and passing legislation as members of a government body which, having been sworn in and taking an oath to meet the needs of all citizens, including the minority, they are duty bound not to suppress the rights of the minority.  And yet, private citizens, through referendums, can both pass and overturn laws enacted by their government – as long as there is a majority supporting the passage or overturning of said law, and so long as the laws the majority wants passed or overturned are not unconstitutional.

Religion in the public schools is not unconstitutional, even from a secular outlook.  Separation of church and state is just that.  And even if it was anything more, it’s not a part of the Constitution so must not be included in legal discourse and debate.  That “congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” in no way prevents religion from being represented, or being legally allowed to remain, within public spaces.  When atheists, the ACLU, and other legal and secular entities sue to “prohibit the free exercise thereof”, of religion in public spaces, such as the atheist couple in Massachusetts, and elsewhere around the country, that does prevent religion from being represented in public spaces and as such is unconstitutional and is an infringement on the rights of the majority.

If atheists ever want to be taken seriously, if they ever want to make any real strides and improvements to their positions and points of views, if they ever want their movement to have credibility, if they ever want their numbers to improve and to increase, as a minority forcing its will on the majority through legal insurrection against the majority itself is not the way to do it.  Up until now, atheists have used the law to forcibly remove religion and religious relics and influences from the public domain against the will of the majority.  Atheists must use the law because they have yet to use their brains and their minds, and the power of intellectual influence and persuasion.  The majority, as of now, desires to be religious and to have their religion and their religious values represented and incorporated in their public spaces.  Until that changes, atheists must accept it.

It is unpatriotic, un-American and unconstitutional for a minority of citizens to suppress the rights of a majority of citizens (such as the majority’s right to have the phrase “under God” included in the Pledge of Allegiance) because the minority rejects the will of the majority.  And, as Americans, we must reject the minority’s thrust to push itself, and its views, on the majority.

How does minority rule not, by default, automatically instigate mass chaos?  In other words, how can any law ever be passed, and remain intact for very long, if the minority has more power and more rights than the majority and when there is always a minority of citizens which opposes any given law?  Wouldn’t every law on the books then be challenged, and thrown out, if even one person objected to it?  We would soon realize what a waste of time passing laws is.  And a nation without laws cannot long survive.

Are we really going to permit our nation to collapse, and to implode on itself, on the whim, on the weight, of the minority?

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12 thoughts on “Atheism Not Unpatriotic – But Minority Rule Is

  1. Tom Ozminkowski on said:

    What you are missing is that the US Constitution is NOT intended to protect the rights of the majority. The rights of the majority are protected by the ballot box. The Constitution, the Boll of Rights, and the rest of the amendments are there to protect the rights of the minority. That is why there were specific amendments to give rights to Blacks, the vote to women, etc. The laws of our land are there to insure an even playing field for all.

    Remember that the Pledge of Allegiance said “out of many”, not “under God” until the early fifties. (That was at the height of the ‘Red Scare’) “In God We Trust” was added to out money in the early 1900’s.

    To put it another way, how would you feel if the pledge were changed again to read “under Allah”? What if our money said “In Allah We Trust”. How would you feel if a statue of Chrishna or Shiva were erected in the town square with a quote from the bhagavad gita? What if banners with quotes from the Koran were displayed in a public school gym?

    -A Patriotic Atheist

  2. I thought made it clear that the Constitution was designed, in part, to protect the minority. But the majority still has rights too. We cannot live under a system of minority rule, as I have pointed out, our nation would never be able to pass any laws without having those laws subject to lawsuits by the minority. The minority must respect the will of the majority, unless the majority is acting unconstitutionally against the minority.

    If a particular town in America wants to erect a statue of Krishna or Shiva, and that is supported by the majority, so what? Our money will never say “In Allah we trust” unless and until a majority of Americans become Muslims and that majority supports such a measure. Quotes from the Koran in public schools is fine also – if the majority supports it. On the other hand, if a minority of people, say one or two people, demand there be a quote from the Koran on a public school banner – would you support that?

  3. “It is unpatriotic, un-American and unconstitutional for a minority of citizens to suppress the rights of a majority of citizens (such as the majority’s right to have the phrase “under God” included in the Pledge of Allegiance)”

    That isn’t a right.

    Particularly because the majority shoved the words in there during McCarthyism.

  4. Well, it wasn’t exactly “shoved”. It was voted on by a majority in congress who favored adding it during the cold war and the heightened tensions coming from a socialistic/atheistic Russia. Since a majority of Americans at the time supported it, and a majority still do, the majority have the right to keep the phrase in. It may do well for the federal government to relinquish its control over the phrase and allow the states to decide for themselves how to deal with it – who would in turn deal with it by relinquishing their control and send it to local governments where the people directly, in those communities, will be better able to decide if they want the phrase to remain intact within their public institutions.

  5. Pingback: Keep Religious Faith out of Politics – Part I « Washington DC News

  6. You’re a bit confused on a few points. First, items of a religious nature cannot constitutionally exist on government property due to the Establishment Clause so the “support of the majority” argument is moot. Second, rights cannot be granted to some or even most at the expense of another’s rights, therefore the “support of the majority” argument is again moot. As the old saying goes, “your right to swing your arms ends at the tip of another’s nose”.

    The tactics most commonly used to circumvent the Establishment Clause in order to have religious displays on government property have included arguing for the item’s “historical significance”, attempting to “grandfather” an item in if it’s been there for a significant time already, the “ceremonial Deism” defense (where “God” is ok as it’s non-specific however “Jesus” or “Vishnu” wouldn’t be), or simply to include a multitude of items from a variety of religions and religious viewpoints (most evident in December for holiday displays). Those tactics have had varied successes, but the “support of the majority” ultimately is not a viable tactic.

    As far as religion in public schools, again, the Establishment Clause must be respected. That means public school officials (ie – teachers, administrators, etc) cannot direct prayers or in any way promote a religion in their role as a school official, nor can the school as a whole promote a religion (as recently seen in the prayer banner issue in RI). Teaching a course on a specific religion or addressing the topic of religion in a class is certainly acceptable provided the religion and/or it’s influence is addressed objectively. For instance, citing the religious influence behind the Temperance movement would be viable, or the fears of some Americans during the JFK/Nixon election over JFK’s Catholicism. Teaching that the Earth was in fact created by a god, humans come from Adam and Eve, and so forth not appropriate.

  7. There is nothing unconstitutional with having religious items on government property. What is unconstitutional is having government officials as the ones who pass legislation that promotes those religious items and places them somewhere on government property or on government insignia, i.e a city seal. The point is far from “moot”. What is at issue is whether or not people, private citizens, from any given community have a right to see displayed on their taxpayer paid for land religious items, symbols, etc which reflect their values, or if one person from that community, who does not share the values, views, etc. of the majority of his/her community has the right to overrule the majority. To conservatives – and keep in mind I am secular, not religious – it is disparaging whenever one person’s opinion can have an impact on the majority. The Constitution strictly prohibits government from enacting laws that establish or promote one religion over another. It says nothing about people doing it. As such, the majority, in the case of private citizens, has the constitutional right to to promote and display religious items on public space.

    I agree with you that using the “historical significance” route is, more often than not, petty. But I must challenge the assertion I am somehow confused because I support the will of the majority over a minority which usually constitutes one or two people. The Constitution compels government to separate itself from making laws which establish or promote religion – but does not prohibit the people, private citizens, from making those same decisions for their public land.

  8. A singular religious item on government property is tantamount to establishing that religion over others and thus, violates the Establishment Clause (exception so far being the ceremonial Deism defense). How the majority feels about that is irrelevant.

    Again, “your right to swing your arms ends at the tip of another’s nose”. The majority may wish to do something, but they cannot if it infringes on another’s rights. The fact that they pay taxes is irrelevant, for everyone pays taxes. The fact that as a majority they pay more taxes is also irrelevant.

    You simply keep returning to this idea that the majority can do as it pleases. It cannot. Minority opposition to the majority infringing on their rights is not an infringement upon the majority’s rights. Such “rights” of the majority are ill-gotten privileges.

    The Constitution compels government to separate itself from making laws which establish or promote religion – but does not prohibit the people, private citizens, from making those same decisions for their public land.

    That’s incorrect. First, a law that promotes a religion, despite the majority support for it, is unconstitutional. Second, public land is public for all, therefore it must respect all or it respects none. This idea of using the government and/or government land to promote one group’s views over another’s is as far removed from the spirit of the constitution as you can get.

  9. That a religious item is on government (public) land in no way “establishes” that religion, or imposes that religion on the entire community, or forces anyone to submit to that religion upon penalty of fine, imprisonment and/or death. And we both agree that if it is government initiating the installation of say a religious monument on public land, or government directing public schools to post the Ten Commandments, or even a school administration directing an opening prayer before the beginning of a school day – that is all unconstitutional.

    What needs to be debated is why one person can say to an entire community – the majority of which would otherwise support something of a religious nature on their public land – they must acquiesce to the will of that one person. What you are saying then, is that the majority either does not have any rights in these matters, or the minority has more rights than the majority, even when the minority is one person.

    If the community, however, is attempting to “establish” said religion by installing something of a religious nature, and then is compelling the entire community to submit, that does cross the Constitution line. But that is not what is going on. What is going on is that the will of a minority, as little as one person, is being legally allowed to dictate to an entire community their personal beliefs in these matters. Where do we rationally draw the line so that a community is not unduly burdened by the antics of one person?

  10. A singular religious display on government property does in fact establish that religion. It emboldens the followers of that religion, first of all. Second, it creates the appearance of favoritism. Such an item’s presence has no secular purpose, advances that religion on multiple counts, even if it merely advances it by the prominence of its display, and naturally creates an excessive and unnecessary entanglement of government and religion.

    What needs to be debated is why one person…

    Actually no, it doesn’t. The constitution is quite clear on this. You, however, are not.

  11. A singular religious display on government property does in fact establish that religion.
    Nonsense. If you replace that “religious display” with a tree, are you establishing that tree? And what if a town does erect a tree and someone comes along and says they don’t like that particular tree, therefore it must come down? People do worship trees.

    It emboldens the followers of that religion, first of all.
    So what? People can be “emboldened” without pushing themselves or their religion on others. Non beleivers are “emboldened” every time the court finds in their favor.

    Second, it creates the appearance of favoritism.
    Again, so what? This is still America, and Americans can still engage in favoritism. The idea of leveling the playing field and being “fair” to everyone is a socialist concept. And back to the courts – they tend to play “favoritsm” more often than not by siding with the one person who wants the religius display taken down. This brings us back to the question – Where do we rationally draw the line so that a community is not unduly burdened by the antics of one person?

    The Constitution does not separate state from religion. I would hope we are beyond that childish prattle. It’s unbecoming in a debate. States (governments) cannot establish religions, nor can states (governments) compel its citizens to embrace any particular religion, or have their money confiscated in order to support the finances of any religion. There is no Church of America, or Church of (fill in the state of your choice). Displaying something religious on public land hurts no one. If someone is emotionally offended by it, they ought to grow up and get over it. Because one or two people in that community cannot physically or psychologically go on with their lives knowing that somewhere there is a religious display is beyond ridiculous. If you look at any community, there is probably something “established” that offends just about everyone.

    The constitution is quite clear on this. You, however, are not.
    The Constitution does not guarantee the right of minority rule. It does provide certain and specific rights with regards to race and gender discrimination the majority at one time imposed on citizens. The Constitution does not state freedom from religion. Nor does it state that private citizens cannot promote and show favoritism to the religion of their choice.

    If secularists and non believers are ever to gain any credibility in America, we must remember the number one rule – be rational at all times. Without rationality, where are we as a society? So again – how is it rational to accept the will of the minority if all it does is alienate, ostracize and separate them that much apart from their community? And why in bloody hell do we give in to a minority of one person? If one person can have such power, does anyone really believe it will end with the removal of religious displays?

  12. Pingback: ACLU/AU – Take A Long Holiday, Let The Children Pray (In School) « The Neosecularist

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