Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Separation of Church and Corporation

Today Judge Karlton, a federal judge for California, ruled that the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional in public schools. An atheist Sacramento lawyer named Michael Newdow brought the case on behalf of students in five school districts, including that of his daughter, whom he does not have legal control over. That technicality regarding his relationship to his daughter resulted in a loss for Newdow in last year'’s Supreme Court case in which he challenged the phrase "“under God" in the pledge. The newest version of the current case is certain to make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal brought by the group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

In light of this ruling, I will briefly discuss the established precedent known as the "separation of church and state." This is a touchy issue for many. Basically the arguments against it are based on the absence of the specific wording "separation of church and state" in the Constitution or in its amendments. However, proponents point to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as the source for this idea, which bars government from establishing an official state religion. I would agree with the latter. Most social conservatives, however, would argue the former. This is primarily because their political leaders do not believe there should be a separation, often claiming we have a freedom OF religion, not a freedom FROM religion, which is a direct slap in the face to the minority crowd of atheists and agnostics. Although I do agree that we should not give this small minority the ultimate determination of our laws, I must insist that we do live in a Democracy, not a Theocracy like that of the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Besides, whose religion are we to promote without this separation?

In this particular case, I don'’t think it's necessary to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from public (government) schools. If you do’ not wish to say the pledge, then don'’t; simple as that, no harm done. Also, in cases involving public displays of traditional religious symbols such as the Ten Commandments in a Court House, I do not see the harm in leaving them there since they have been present for decades and do not influence the views of the Judges working there. However, when it comes to creating actual laws that specifically blur the distinction between a particular religion's law and a state law, I draw the line. In the case of the pledge, the phrase "under God"” can be considered a universal idea, not just confined to one particular religion, or even religion in general. Again, no one is forcing anybody to say it.

How does all this relate to the media? It is a controversial subject, and will no doubt cause strong emotions on both sides. This is what the media thrives on. Raw emotion and controversy combine for increased ratings and hence larger profits. Such an issue is routinely used by the media in the corporate interest, with little or no consideration for an eventual outcome. The indirect results of this sensationalism and concentration on official sources include a divisive, bitter, and skewed outlook on the overall issues involved. The media only takes into account two different view points, namely the conservative and liberal sides while completely ignoring the independent middle ground. This is how almost all controversial issues are treated in the media, creating the appearance of a black and white society where one side is right and the other wrong. There is no room for compromise in this corporate, profit-driven paradigm, at least within the media. After all, moderates are just too boring.

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