It's nice to know that in this election year, such important issues as flag burning and the Pledge of Allegiance are at the top of the priority list for Congress. After all, in this time of war and terrorist threats, flag-burners and atheists are the real threats to this country.
In a vote with election-year consequences, the House sought to assure that God's 50-year place in the Pledge of Allegiance will be safe from federal court challenges.Personally, I think one of the greatest threats to this country at the moment is ultra-Right-Wing Republicans assaulting our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, and our civil rights. How ironic it is that the people who wrap themselves in the flag and scream so loudly about patriotism are same people who are eroding the very things that make this country so great!
The bill, approved on a 247-173 vote Thursday, would prevent federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from ruling on whether the words "under God" should be stricken from the pledge.
The legislation drew strong protests from Democrats who said they want "under God" to remain but viewed the measure as an unconstitutional attack on the judicial branch. They said it was meant mainly to force them into a controversial vote just six weeks before the election.
But Democrats said the bill would damage a system of judicial review that has been fundamental to government for 200 years. "We're playing with fire here, we are playing with the national unity of this country," by letting each state make its own interpretation of constitutional law, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
"This bill is a dramatic assault on the courts and individual rights, wrapped in phony patriotism," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
"This bill has been brought to the floor to embarrass some members, so I respect whatever decisions they have to make in light of the motivations behind it," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In the end, 34 Democrats voted for the bill and six Republicans opposed it.
Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., offered an amendment that would have returned the legislation to its original form, under which lower federal courts were barred from ruling on the pledge but the Supreme Court retained its authority. It was defeated, 217-202.
There is no direct precedent for making exceptions to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction, said Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., who backed the original bill and the Watt amendment but voted against the final version.
"The issue today may be the pledge, but what if the issue tomorrow is Second Amendment (gun) rights, civil rights, environmental protection, or a host of other issues that members may hold dear?" she asked.