WORLD NEWS HEADLINES
UNITED STATES — PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE UNCONSTITUTIONAL?
A federal appeals court of the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday that saying the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because the “under God” portion added by Congress in 1954 improperly endorses religion. The 9th Circuit includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, an appointee of President Richard M. Nixon, wrote for the three-judge panel, stating that this phrase, as adopted by Congress, amounts to an official endorsement of “a religious orthodoxy” of monotheism over atheism or a belief in certain non-Judeo-Christian religions or philosophies, and is therefore impermissible. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, joined Goodwin. Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, dissented.
The decision does not become effective until all appeals have failed. It is almost viewed as certain that the decision will be overturned, either by a full appeals court of the 9th Circuit, or, if the full court of appeals refuses to change the decision, by the United States Supreme Court, most likely sometime in 2003.
Most politicians condemned the decision. President Bush called it “ridiculous” and “out of step with the traditions and history of America.” He promised to appoint judges who affirm God’s role in the public square, stating that this country needs “commonsense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God.”
The U.S. Senate voted 99-0 on a resolution condemning the ruling. Attorney General John Ashcroft said “this decision is directly contrary to two centuries of American tradition.” Senator Joe Lieberman called for a constitutional amendment to enshrine “under God” in the Pledge. “There may have been a more senseless, ridiculous decision issued by a court at some time, but I don’t remember it,” he said.
Many newspapers across the nation condemned the ruling as well. The New York Times and The Washington Post said that the ruling was more misguided than incorrect, calling it “well-meaning” but lacking in “common sense.” The Los Angeles Times stated references to the Almighty have long been an integral part of everyday American life.
Some legal experts were not convinced that the decision was stretching the United States Supreme Court’s past cases. Washington lawyer Christopher Landau, former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, stated that he did not think “this is necessarily a wacko 9th Circuit result… This is the Supreme Court reaping what it sowed.” Eugene Volokh, a specialist in church-state law at UCLA Law School, concurred. “It is eminently defensible,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s ultimately the right result. But the court is applying principles the Supreme Court has established.” He continued that he expects that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the Pledge, as the words “under God” qualify as “‘ceremonial deism’ — traditional references to a higher power so frequently invoked that they have lost any specific religious meaning.”
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a 37-year-old Baptist minister from New York, for the observance of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ landing. It was not exclusively for the flag of the United States, but it was intended to be an international peace pledge. In 1923-24, the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution changed the words “to my flag” to “to the flag of the United States of America.” Congress added the words “under God” in 1954 after a two-year campaign begun by the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic service group. Alfred Goodwin writes in his majority opinion that “the purpose of the 1954 Act was to take a position on the question of theism, namely, to support the existence and moral authority of God, while ‘deny[ing]… atheistic and materialistic concepts.'”
(Sources: Newdow v. U.S. Congress, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2002), pp. 9105-9136; USA Today; Washington Post; both as of June 27, 2002)
UNITED STATES — DROUGHT WATCH
The city of Denver, Colorado, has now imposed water restrictions because of ominous lack of rainfall and lower than normal water reserves. Now into a two and three year impact from low snowfall and precious little rain, the state of Colorado along with the greater Southwestern United States is beginning to implement plans for an ongoing drought that will only worsen.
Agricultural businesses now wonder if many farmers will even plant seed next year. Cattle herds are already being sold down in reaction to lack of irrigation water or timely rains to grow hay. Privately, some individuals are considering the reality of rationed drinking water–much less restricted lawn watering in the coming year.
MIDDLE EAST — NEW PALESTINIAN LEADER AS A REQUIREMENT FOR PEACE?
In a 15-minute speech on Wednesday, President George W. Bush expressed his vision that the state of Israel will live side-by-side in peace with a state of Palestine, fighting together against terrorism. He asked the Palestinian people to elect new leaders who are not tainted by terrorism, and to create a functioning democracy. Although never mentioning Arafat by mane, it became clear that Bush was advocating a new Palestinian leader other than Arafat.
Both Israel and Arafat reacted positively to Bush’s speech. Israel’s minister of defense, Benjamin Ben Eliser, stated that the speech was an “historical event”, and Arafat welcomed Bush’s “ideas,” stating that their expression showed a “serious effort.”
Subsequently, Bush emphasized in Canada that Israel has a right to defend itself. At the same time, he asked Israel to withdraw its army from areas that were occupied subsequent to September 2000. He also stated that Israel must cease from building Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.
The White House also clarified that Bush’s demands towards Israel and the Palestinians were to be understood “simultaneously,” that have to be accomplished hand-in-hand. According to the White House, Mr. Bush did not want to imply a certain order of actions. It was not meant to convey that Israel could sit back and wait what will happen.
Sources: Bild, June 25; Der Stern Online, June 26
GERMANY — REMARKABLE COMMENTS FROM FORMER GERMAN CHANCELLOR
This week, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (83) gave an insightful interview to BILD-Online, discussing the problems of present-day education in Germany. We feel that his worthwhile analysis applies equally to the Western World as a whole. The following are excerpts from the interview:
Question: “What values are missing in today’s education?”
Helmut Schmidt: “Virtues such as the feeling of responsibility for oneself and others…”
Question: “Which virtue played a predominant role in your education?”
Helmut Schmidt: “Bravery… If it does not work out in your job, don’t give up, but press on, even if it is difficult….”
Question: “Can young people be trained to accept those values?”
Helmut Schmidt: “Lectures don’t help. They have to experience those values in school, in a club, in the company, but mostly, in the family.”
Question: “Is television responsible for violence…?”
Helmut Schmidt: “Yes, in part… Our children and teens see daily on the TV screens murders, wars, and blood. The media supports this, as they want to make money. And our children finally begin to think, this is reality…”
Question: “Can teachers work against those developments?”
Helmut Schmidt: “This would require first that they will be respected. But the generation of the late 60’s glorified for the young people the vice of lack of respect for age … What an insanity…”
Question: “How did family life change since you were young?”
Helmut Schmidt: “Not as much, as many think. There are still intact families in Germany. But problems increase: More and more children grow up with divorce. Some remain single kids,
becoming more egoistic and self-centered…. Others are handed over far too early to pre-school or kindergarten, instead of staying with their parents. I know that more and more mothers want to work, but I do not think that this is a good development. ”