Patrick J. Buchanan
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the militant atheism that is now America's established church is that it has convinced Christians it is not a religion or an ideology at all, simply the rule of reason.
Consider atheism's latest triumph over religious freedom.
Federal District Judge Norman K. Moon just ordered Virginia Military Institute cadets to stop saying grace before the evening meal. Two cadets, Neil Mellen and Paul Knick, had whined to the ACLU, which then trooped into Moon's court to terminate the 50-year-old tradition at the military school made famous by that professor of artillery and man of God, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson.
"Because the prayers are drafted and recited at the direction of the Institute's Superintendent," said Moon, one of Bill Clinton's ornaments on the federal bench, "government has become impermissibly entangled" with religion. Saying grace, said Moon, amounts to a "state-sponsored religious exercise."
But with what religion is VMI "impermissibly entangled"? Judaism? Presbyterianism? Catholicism? And if saying grace is a "state-sponsored religious exercise," why does the Supreme Court permit Congress to start sessions with a prayer by a tax-paid chaplain?
The First Amendment reads thus: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Does saying grace sound like VMI was moving to establish a state religion, or does it rather sound like VMI was engaging in the "free exercise" of faith?
Judge Moon simply exploited this case to impose on VMI his own ideology. In so doing, he did not consult the First Amendment at all, but decisions taken by the Supreme Court of Earl Warren, which set out in the 1950s to de-Christianize America. And because of the decisions of that court, now the law of the land, America needs on the Supreme Court not conservative jurists, but constitutionalists and counter-revolutionaries with a healthy contempt for the opinions of those dead white males – Warren, Brennan, Blackmun and Douglas – and the courage to throw out 50 years of flawed precedent.
Will President Bush nominate such justices? The jury is still out.
But how did this self-governing people reach a point where we must ask the permission of federal judges before students can say grace before dinner? Not long ago, had Mellen and Knick protested having grace said before meals, VMI would have told them that if they could not respect school traditions, they should go someplace else – that VMI's superintendent, not malcontent cadets, would decide how VMI was run.
Instead, we have in America a situation where tiny minorities are able to enlist the ACLU, which can always go judge-shopping for a Norman Moon to impose its dissent on the majority. The few now dictate to the many – the essence of dictatorship. How did we get here?
Fifty years ago, Americans failed to demand that their presidents and Congresses corral a renegade Supreme Court and return it to the tiny stall set aside for it in the Constitution. Because we did not, and because neither presidents nor Congresses had the wisdom or will to rein it in, that court usurped power at the expense of both state governments and the elected branches. Appointed for life, the nine justices are now answerable to no one, as they reshape America according to their own whims.
The Supreme Court now wields far more power over the way in which we are permitted to live our lives than either the Congress or the president. It claims powers the King of England never dreamed of, when the founding fathers rose up to overthrow that tyrant. In the face of this tyranny, we behave like a nation of sheep. Can one imagine the response had Chief Justice Taney ordered the VMI of "Stonewall" Jackson to end all prayers?
Last week, Americans observed a holiday for Martin Luther King. And what was he famous for? Civil disobedience against unjust laws and court decisions. Why are the Christians of today so much more wimpish than the old civil-rights leaders of yesterday?
In "Conscience of a Conservative," written in 1960, Barry Goldwater warned, "federal aid to education inevitably means federal control of education." Once our schools began to take the king's shilling, they began to lose their freedom. No sooner did federal dollars enter than the federal judges followed close behind. And if faith-based institutions start taking Uncle Sam's money, as President Bush proposes, Uncle Sam's judges will follow the dollars into the churches and begin dictating to them, as well.
Our forefathers thought freedom was worth fighting for. But we have forgotten – freedom is not free, even in America.
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