Monday, June 14, 2004

Rehnquist's Silliness At least O'Connor put some thought into her argument. Rehnquist was, apparently, too busy for that. Most of his opinion is taken up by a catalog of examples in which President X officiating over Event Y invoked God in some ill-defined way. Since none of the examples he cites involve pressuring school children into declaring their fealty to God, it's not clear to me why Rehnquist finds any of that relevant.

He does manage to close his opinion with a real zinger:

When courts extend constitutional prohibitions beyond their previously recognized limit, they may restrict democratic choices made by public bodies. Here, Congress prescribed a Pledge of Allegiance, the State of California required patriotic observances in its schools, and the School District chose to comply by requiring teacher-led recital of the Pledge of Allegiance by willing students. Thus, we have three levels of popular government--the national, the state, and the local--collaborating to produce the Elk Grove ceremony. The Constitution only requires that schoolchildren be entitled to abstain from the ceremony if they chose to do so. To give the parent of such a child a sort of “heckler's veto” over a patriotic ceremony willingly participated in by other students, simply because the Pledge of Allegiance contains the descriptive phrase “under God,” is an unwarranted extension of the Establishment Clause, an extension which would have the unfortunate effect of prohibiting a commendable patriotic observance.

Neither Rehnquist nor O'Connor seem to grasp the fact that we are talking about very young children indeed. Newdow's daughter was nine when his suit was filed, and children younger than that are expected to say the Pledge as well. Don't you think that's a bit young to expect kids to have the wherewithal to consider seriously the merits of the Pledge, and stand up to their more sheep-like peers if they demure?