Under God… for Now


In the biggest anticlimax since Matrix: Revolutions, the Supreme Court dismissed Michael Newdow's challenge to the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance on standing grounds, not even reaching the Establishment Clause claim. But as Jacob Levy points out over at Volokh Conspiracy, that's not entirely bad news even for folks like me who thought Newdow's claim was pretty obviously correct. It strikes me as most likely that the court would've made the wrong decision had it reached the merits. Since the wrong decision wouldn't make any sense—the addition of "under God" patently fails even the weakest "secular purpose" test for an Establishment Clause violation—we'd have ended up with a bad piece of precedent likely to be seen as a license for further state endorsement of religion. Even if they'd gotten it right, we'd be treated to another noxious culture war skirmish with public officials competing to see who can belt out some dead socialist's doggerel the loudest. Given the relatively small stakes involved in the case itself, seems better to leave this battle and take it up again in a few decades.