Today in the grudge match: NZB vs. VP!

Wow. I actually think is flat-out wrong on an issue. That doesn’t happen too often.

He’s right when he says that a functioning society requires manners and understanding; but he’s flat out wrong when he applies that principle to the Pledge case.

It’s a secular society, Stephen. Either you agree with that principle — in which case the ruling makes sense — or you don’t, in which case I’ll be expecting you to show up at a church / mosque / synagogue of my choice this weekend (and yup, that means you have to miss the Blogger Bash).

The attitude of some folks towards this fellow seems to be “Siddown and shaddup; what’s the big deal about one little phrase?”

To be clear: Stephen’s position is that everyone involved in this case — from Congress who enacted the “Under God” clause to the fellow bringing the suit to the appeals court — are idiots, for not ‘shrugging off the little stuff’. Which is indeed a more sensible position than just bashing the guy bringing the suit; Stephen seems to be squarely with the “it’s not a big deal one way or another” crowd.

But it is a big deal, and now more than ever. The man filing on behalf of his daughter shouldn’t have dropped the case after 9/11 — as some has suggested — he should have pursued it with even more vigor. Because we are at war with religious facism — a point that the Blogosphere, at least, has become relatively clear about for some time. We are at war with what happens when religious ideology runs amok and becomes all-consuming.

Do I think the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge is the first step towards a Taliban-like government? Of course not. But that’s a strawman argument. The real argument is that if we are a secular society — and I for one hope we are — then we should damned well act like one. It is a matter of principle. And like many matters of principle, sometimes they involve things that are trivial on their face, but symbolicly, extremely important.

Take a step back and remember, folks: what we’re talking about is, de facto, an oath which is sworn by young children every day in which they state their dedication to this country. Now, there’s an interesting debate to be had on whether that is a good idea in the first place.

But geez, if you’re going to have such an oath, I think it’s pretty important that you make it represent the true ideals of our society. The “under God” phrase in the pledge has been teaching kids for decades (me included) that the idea that the U.S. is secular has always come with a wink-wink nudge-nudge; of course we’re secular, it says, but in a very, you know, Judeo-Christian kind of way.

The decision may have been lousy law (it sounds like it was, based on prior judgements), and it may be struck down as soon as when the full Appeals court sits on it. But it was still right.