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Trampling Religious Freedom

01/13/2005

The guy who sued your government to remove "one nation under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance is at it again. This time, he is suing the president to prevent any clergy from uttering a prayer at next week's inauguration.

Michael Newdow is a doctor and lawyer from Sacramento, California. He also assumes the oxymoronic role of "licensed minister of atheism." (I'm not quite sure how this works. I suppose it allows him to join couples in unholy matrimony, offer no comfort in times of distress, and spread the Bad News of the Gospel of No Hope.)

After failing to persuade Supreme Court to strike "one nation under God" from the Pledge last year, he has renewed his efforts against "Christian religious acts" in this year's presidential inauguration. The "defendants must be enjoined from their planned religious activities," the lawsuit states. "Enjoined," according to Merriam-Webster, means forbidden or prohibited. In Herr Newdow's mind, Christianity is strictly verboten for American politicians and children.

Such prayers, Newdow claims, turn non-Christians "into second-class citizens and create division on the basis of religion." Division in Washington? Surely he can't be serious!

Newdow and the American Civil Liberties Union, which backs his claims in court, continually cite the so-called "establishment clause," which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The phrase comes from the Bill of Rights that was passed by the First Congress -- the same Congress that opened its legislative day with prayer and voted to apportion federal dollars to establish Christian missions on Indian lands! Clearly, their intention was to avoid the mistake of their ancestral countries, many of which had national religious institutions founded by the government and forced on their citizens. At the same time, the authors of this provision balanced their declaration with the often-ignored phrase preventing the government from "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

I don't think I've ever heard this phrase from the Bill of Rights referred to as the "free exercise clause," although that part of the decree carries equal weight with the "establishment" portion. The bottom line, and the courts have repeatedly upheld this viewpoint, is that Americans are free to express themselves whether it involves a personal display of faith or not.

George W. Bush said to me, while on our television program LIFE Today, "I think people need to pray for the nation as a whole... I think it ought to be the prayer for the 21st century to remind us how blessed we are, but to remember to help others... I can't tell you what an honor it is to walk around a state like Texas, where people walk up and say, 'I'm praying for you.' It matters a lot to me. It's a powerful statement of faith... And I ask for guidance prayer personally as well. So when you ask what people can do, they can pray for me, they can pray for my little girls, they can pray for my wife, they can pray for our family."

President Bush is again under fire for expressing his spiritual beliefs, but surely our founding fathers would not disqualify him from speaking freely or forbid clergy and ordinary citizens to pray for him and other leaders. Yet Newdow and his leftist supporters seek to manipulate the courts into forcing his views, which are held by a minute percentage of the population, onto the majority of our great democracy's citizens.

The liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out the same suit last year, calling it "futile," so experts deem Newdow's renewed efforts another failure. But at some point, America will have to wake up to the unrelenting assault on our liberties by these determined, well-funded extremists. We must defend the freedoms for which our forefathers died, or else our children and grandchildren won't have a prayer.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 650

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.