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Monday, June 21, 2004

The plot thickens

Ellen Goodman weighs in on the custody implications of the Supreme Court case. She is concerned that the court decision is going to make custody battles uglier, because it is a step towards stripping custodial parents of all rights to make decisions in a child's life.

The Supreme Court ruled that the parent without full legal custody was without any legal standing. But if we want parents involved in the kids' lives, how can we remove them in the court?

I think that's overstating it, to say the least. Newdow did not file this motion in a vaccum; it was just another lawsuit in a series of lawsuits built less around his concern for his daughter and more around his need to show contempt for his ex-girlfriend and an entire family law system that refuses to roll over and just award paternal rights and eliminate maternal rights without question.
It just goes to show that sexism doesn't need religion to excuse itself; even atheist sexists find justifications for their sorry asses.
The Supreme Court should be able to consider this case in context of the custody battles and other controlling lawsuits that Newdow has filed. If he and his ex-girlfriend had an otherwise placid relationship and only clashed on this, I doubt it would have become a big deal. If he was an otherwise kind and agreeable man with just a hang-up about these two words, she might have still fought him on this, but I doubt it. As it is, this pledge case was a way to draw the schools and the Supreme Court into a private battle between a man and a woman who continues to buck what he perceives as his rightful authority over her.
Those two controversial words need to come out of the Pledge. Cases like this demonstrate exactly why we need a separation of church and state--when the state begins to dictate religious practices, no matter how small, it's almost never about some nebulous spirituality and almost always about using the Word of God to enforce political stances. And it clearly swings all over the horizon when people's belief systems get involved. What should have been a clear-cut custodial case has become a legal nightmare because each parent has managed to draw on the forces of religion and state authority to fight battles that should have been left in the kitchen and the bedroom. It's hard to avoid imagining how this, at least, could have been avoided if the separation between church and state could have been respected in the first place.
The Supreme Court couldn't have won, because in the end this fight wasn't about the separation of church and state but instead was using that battle to fight a battle closer to home. If they had ruled in favor of the Pledge, it would have really been in favor of the mother. Or if they had ruled against the Pledge, it would have asserted the father's right to meddle with the life of a woman who has ejected him from hers. Since it couldn't be about an actual constitutional question, it wasn't their place to rule on it. That's for the best.


Blogger Rachel Ann said...

The whole issue of the pledge is much more complicated than is generally stated. It isn't a matter of simply two words; there are some who would not say the pledge regardless, because their religious beliefs forbid swearing oaths lightly.

As far as Newton goes; he had no real concern for his daughter. He wanted to control her and cared for nothing but controlling her. Had his ex-girlfriend felt the plege was bad, he would have been on the other side.

No doubt we will hear from this man again, forcing his way into a different aspect of this child's life; use of natural vs allopathic treatment, clothing style, chores......he'll find something to be angry about.


Blogger Amanda said...

I don't think there's a case to be made for getting rid of the Pledge altogether. Nothing about the anti-establishment clause suggests that school curriculum be sculpted to accomodate every religious belief. In fact, just the opposite. The separation of church and state means that the state should be making decisions based on secular, not religious values.
That's another problem with Newdow's argument. He's in such a victim mentality that he has decided the issues isn't so much the non-establishment clause as it is accomodating his "belief", which is actually a non-belief.
This isn't about accomodation, it's about scrubbing religion from the system altogether so that accomodation isn't any issue. It's a way to say that schools are a secular institution, take it or leave it. If we accomodated every religious belief, we wouldn't have much left to teach at all. Art, music, and literature are all banned on some level or another by some religion or another. Science is clearly a contentious point. Civics could be a problem, since some religions forbid political activity. History has a great deal of power to offend.
Avoiding offense is an unworkable solution. The closest we can come is non-establishment.


Blogger Rachel Ann said...

I agree Amanda,

I should have made that clear. I don't think we can ban the pledge (and I don't want creationism taught in public schools.) I think there are ways to allow the pledge which the majority will find acceptable, and ways to accomadate the minority. (children can add Under G-d quietly, not whisper but I picture moms and dads sending kids to school with "remember to shout here" as a goodbye. Other's can stand quietly, or even sit quietly.)

I didn't think about the other areas, you are correct.

My belief is one puts ones children into a secular school for a secular education, and a religious school for religious education.



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