Tuesday, January 18, 2005

the "religion" of Michael Newdow

With props to my brother, who has posted about this topic before. . .

Last week, infamous atheist Michael Newdow had his lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to ban prayer from the President's inauguration rejected by the U.S. District Court of DC. The crux of Newdow's suit, in layman's terms, was that he should should be free to attend the inauguration this week without the presence of Christian prayers that he feels make him and other atheists feel like second-class citizens. In December, Newdow contacted the "organization committee" (not the actual name, but that is it's purpose) for this upcoming inauguration and discovered that there would be two prayers offered by people of a Christian background. Newdow concluded that there was a great likelihood that the prayers would speak of a God that Newdow does not believe exists, and he feared that the the prayers would show a disapproval of his non-Christianity. He sued under the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment, claiming that he has "a fundamental constitutional right to observe and participate in the Nation's official ceremonies free from governmental endorsement of religion".

And the interesting thing about all of this, to me at least, is that his suit is almost a carbon copy of the suit that he filed back in 2001 after watching President Bush's inauguration on the TV. He said then that "[t]he effect of the [clergy's] purely religious words was for Christian Americans to perceive them as an endorsement of their Christianity, and for non-Christian
Americans including plaintiff to perceive the Pledge [sic] as a disapproval of their
non-Christianity." He further asserted that the "religious activity" at the inauguration made him to feel like an "outsider"--which would have violated the "Establishment Clause", under the protection of which he filed the action. That suit was thrown out by the District Court, a decision that was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court in February of 2004, which ruled that "Newdow lacks standing to bring this action because he does not allege a sufficiently concrete and specific injury."

So after going through that whole ringamorale for 3 years and getting nowhere, what is different about this year that Newdow thinks is going to make him successful in his suit?

One little thing: he has a ticket to attend this year's inauguration.

Get that? He is VOLUNTARILY, without any threat, force, or coercion, choosing to attend an event that he knows is likely to contain "religious acts" that will "make" him feel like a "second-class citizen" (all of these quotes, by the way, are from one or the other of Newdow's arguments against Bush)--but rather than just not go to the event (thereby doing his part to avoid a sufficiently concrete and specific injury), he uses his planned attendance at the inauguration as the very reason that the courts should change the content of the festivities to something that won't make him feel like an "outsider".

Listen, Mr. Newdow, if it's really that aggravating--no, pardon me, DAMAGING--to you that during two elements of a multi-faceted celebration in this Nation's Capitol people MIGHT express beliefs that are contrary to yours, then I've got a solution for you: don't go. Regardless of whether or not this is a "national ceremony" (and by the way, your tax money is NOT going towards this inauguration, even though the courts ruled that you have some manner of standing to bring some sort of suit against the inauguration activities), your attendance at the festivities is entirely optional. If the scheduled activities do not meet with your standards for decorum, then you should choose to rid the event from your daily planner. If you actually feel that your attendance would cause a "sufficiently concrete and specific injury" as to overturn the Ninth Circuit's prior decision about all this nonsense, then doesn't common sense/social darwinism/survival instinct dictate that you avoid that event at all possible costs?

Besides, it's not like you voted for the guy anyhow.

And I am glad to say the the courts got this one right--not because they ruled against Newdow per se, but moreso because they correctly chose to not "protect" someone who was "responsible" for whatever "injuries" they incurred/might incur. I personally feel that such a determination is a good threshold for the limits of judicial activism--and we are definitely in an age where we need some limits on judicial activism!


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