The Problem with Punting

Despite my near-obsession with football and the title above, this is a post about something other than the greatest game! Yesterday a Federal judge in California ruled that schools having students recite the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional due to the words "under God." Michael Newdow, who brought the last suit on this issue, is behind this one as well.

Of course the Supreme Court ruled on this issue before. But because they dismissed the case on procedural rather than substantive grounds, it's coming back. If they had just made a ruling on the merits, the issue would be settled. Putting off till tomorrow is neither a good strategy for work or for facing difficult legal issues.

I suspect the Court punted because they realize that the tangled web they've woven over the years in a series of inconsistent (not to say incoherent) rulings on religion in public life means that any way they rule will contradict something they've said before. I also suspect they realize the popularity of our cultural religious icons, and are reluctant to apply their "reasoning" to the Pledge. Perhaps now that the law of the land won't depend on what mood Justice O'Connor is in on a given day, we can come to an actual solution rather than continuing to issue rulings based on how many reindeer are included with the creche and whether they're positioned to the left or right of Mary and Joseph. One could hope...


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