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?
- A Broad Spectrum Of Disbelief (spaninquis.wordpress.com)
- Is Atheism a Religion? (volokh.com)
- A Massachusetts Pledge Case – “Under God” Is Discriminatory (atheistethicist.blogspot.com)
- [religion] Who’s persecuting whom? (jlake.com)
- Triangulations : Atheist Coming Out (triangulations.wordpress.com)