Friday, September 6, 2013

Fox's "Five" take on the question of "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, with predictably laughable results

There is an article posted today at the Friendly Atheist (whose share of this post brought so many readers and much discussion :) ) that I find particularly interesting. Interesting, for all the reasons we've come to expect when discussing Fox News anchors.

The discussion point was the case pending in MA regarding the mention of one nation "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. These words, "under God", were not part of the original pledge, but purposefully were added in 1954. (This is only briefly noted, and then dismissed, by the panelists, despite the fact that a relatively recent and deliberate attempt to inject religiosity in government seems to be at odds with the separation of church and state.) The case argues that referencing God in this way violates the separation of church and state -- an argument that has some merit to it, and should at least be refuted in kind, if refutation is indeed possible. (Personally, I will be interested to see how this one plays out).

Now, predictably, Fox News hosts do not agree with the assertions made in the case. And equally as predictably, their disagreement did not come in the form of some reasoned or rational rebuttal. Friendly Atheist highlights some of the more mind numbing commentary, arguments like this, from Dana Perino:

… I think that our representatives have spoken over and over again [in support of the Pledge], and that, if these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here.

Dear God in heaven. Can you imagine if someone told the "War on Christmas" crowd that? "Excuse me, Fox anchors? You  know how you don't like that Americans say 'Happy Holidays' and put up Menorahs and atheist holiday displays? You don't like that some communities have decided, here and there, not to have 'Christmas' parades, but settle for a more generic 'holiday' parade? There's the door, my friends." 

Of course, in addition to being rather childish, it's a bad argument for all sorts of reasons. Our country is a nation of laws, our government a system of checks and balances. It's designed to work in exactly the way it's working in reference to this case. If, in fact, it turns out that the inclusion of "under God" violates the separation of Church and State (and Fox's "Five" really offered no good rebuttals to that one), then it must go. The fact that any number of people have signed on to keeping it is neither here nor there. Short of upending our constitution (which the Fox crew purport to be stalwart champions of) and tearing down one of the very pillars of our freedom, the separation of church and state, then a phrase deemed unconstitutional (should this be so deemed) must go. That is, after all, what our courts do in such cases: decide if the collective will of the people is, in fact, in accordance with our constitution. Large groups of people joined together to do unconstitutional things is the very point which the courts are meant to check. Those are the things the court evaluates for constitutionality -- things that have become law, passed by some majority, but whose legitimacy is called into question. "Checking" large groups of people making rules that violate the constitution is the purpose of our supreme courts and the Supreme Court! Arguing, then, that a large group of people have done something, therefore the courts are not needed, is to miss the entire point of the system.

But there's more gems to be gleaned. Greg Gutfeld thinks atheists should be OK thanking God that they live in a country that allows them to be atheists (an argument so absurd that it is cringe-worthy, not least of all for apparently missing by a substantial gulf the very concept of atheism); Kimberly Guilfoyle thinks the courts should not "cater" to atheists by hearing these cases of separation of church and state (one cannot but wonder what her opinion would be if a Christian student objected to being asked to make a pledge that linked, say, Allah with our nation in such a fashion), again showing that understanding of our system of government is not the "Five's" forte, etc. It was another statement by Dana Perino that really struck me, though.

"If you don't believe, then why do you care? It's just like some guy's name."
Again, would she apply this principle to situations identical save the deity at hand? Would she not "care" if the god in question was someone else's god, like "Allah" or "Vishnu" or any number of the other deities which Christians do not observe, rather than her own God? Would any of the panel? Considering that it's the world's heart attack hotspot at Fox when someone in a hijab passes by, I have to say, I'm leaning, strongly, toward "no". I suspect most of the "Five" would be outraged if their children were asked to make a pledge to some deity other than the one to which their parents hold allegiance. Furthermore, if the pledge is no big deal, what is the purpose of it? That's the point of a pledge, isn't it, that it is a big deal, that we need to mean what we say?

Merriam Webster defines pledge as "a binding promise or agreement to do or forbear". Is it right to ask someone to make such an agreement to offer allegiance with the understanding that some part of the 'binding promise' it is not actually meant? It being "just like some guy's name" notwithstanding, it would seem to violate the entire point of a pledge, to say it without meaning parts of it. That, of course, is beyond the question of constitutionality, but I cannot help but wonder at the thought that a child should be induced to pledge something that they do not mean (or else forgo the "patriotic exercise" altogether) with such poor reasoning as "well, who cares if you believe it or not": it shows a significant disregard for the child, with the presumably unintended consequence of cheapening the value of the pledge as well.

Ah well. Another day, another set of silly things said on Fox. It's not surprising, but it is saddening that people will presumably hear this sort of discussion and base their opinions on it.


  1. I just found your blog Rachel, really well written post. Thank you.