Garmong on the Pledge of Allegiance

ARI MediaLink op-ed columnist Robert Garmong has published a new editorial titled “Politics Without Mirrors” which begins:

In a current Supreme Court case, Michael Newdow has challenged the constitutionality of reading the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Newdow, an atheist, argues that the Pledge’s reference to America as “one nation under God,” constitutes governmental establishment of religion. The Bush administration counters that the pledge is “a patriotic exercise, not a religious testimonial,” and should be allowed.
This might seem to be a trivial case. But as part of a “culture war” between the religious Right and the secular Left, it has taken on an ominous significance. Both sides have demonstrated naked hostility to the independent mind: the Right, by its desire to force school-aged children to profess religious belief; the Left, by its demands for governmental support for secular ideas.
The First Amendment established what Thomas Jefferson termed a “wall of separation” between Church and State?a deliberate break with the then-standard European practice of establishing an official church by governmental edict and supporting it by taxes. The purpose of Church/State separation was to protect the right to disagree in matters of religion: to ensure that the power of the government would never be used to force a person to profess or support a religious idea he does not agree with. Government officials may make whatever religious pronouncements they wish, on their own?but they may not use the power of the government to promote their ideas.
On religion or any other topic, an individual’s ideas are the matter of his own mind, decided by the application (or misapplication) of his own rational faculty. To force a man to adhere to a particular doctrine is to subvert the very faculty that makes real agreement possible and meaningful, and thereby to paralyze his mechanism for recognizing truth. The kind of forced “agreement” obtained by governmental edict is every bit as meaningless as was the Iraqis’ “love” for Saddam.

See Garmong’s full editorial for additional analysis.