Saturday, January 26, 2008


Two weeks ago San Diego’s City Council followed the lead of City Attorney Mike Aguirre and agreed to pay $760,000 to James McElroy, the lawyer for deceased atheist Philip Paulson—the litigant in the Mount Soledad cross case.

Apparently Aguirre (a long-time opponent of the cross) and federal Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. think McElroy deserves remuneration despite the fact that Mr. Paulson is no longer with us and that the veterans memorial cross still stands atop Mount Soledad. Indeed, Aguirre facilitated this taxpayer-funded windfall by blithely acquiescing to a plaintiff swap for this death-defying lawsuit.

Four years ago the city of San Diego agreed to pay $950,000 to the ACLU because of a suit over the Boy Scouts’ dollar-a-year Balboa Park lease. In both these cases plaintiffs utilized a “fee shifting” rule first instituted by Congress to aid poor victims of racial discrimination. This same rule keeps school districts and municipalities supine before the ACLU’s well-funded legal threats.

All this anti-religious legal activity is made possible because of an opinion written in 1947 by Justice Hugo Black in Everson v. Board of Education, the critical case upon which the role of religion in American public life now turns.

It was in Everson that Black, citing a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to Connecticut’s Danbury Baptists, asserted that the Constitution erects a “high and impregnable” wall between church and state that doesn’t admit “the slightest breach.” Inexplicably, Black ruled that New Jersey’s funding of transportation to religious schools did not violate his unprecedented judicial standard—a standard that would have rendered unconstitutional the God-sated language on the recently constructed Jefferson Memorial.

Our current legal intolerance toward religious expression arose because subsequent justices took seriously the standard that Black himself didn’t take to heart. Nor did Thomas Jefferson place Black’s interpretation on the words he penned to his Connecticut admirers, since two days latter the president attended (as he regularly did) the church services that were held in the capitol building from 1795 to 1866. (These and other little-known facts are discussed in Stephen Mansfield’s instructive book, “Ten Tortured Words.”)

Nowadays the ACLU and other secularist organizations wield these recently crafted legal cudgels to see that public monies and institutions are only employed to disseminate ideas they embrace—either via the SB 777 legislation that recently passed in Sacramento or via gay pride parades manned by reluctant city firefighters.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the naïve notion of state neutrality in matters of religion is only a ruse employed to censor traditional perspectives. Meanwhile, a host of anti-religious ideas fill the ethical vacuum.

Anyone who thinks that public schools and colleges aren’t indoctrinating young people with the whole “progressive” playbook--from support for gay marriage to reverence for an elite-led socialist society--simply hasn’t been paying attention. Indeed, as Jonah Goldberg’s new book explains, dissenting parents are now paying, through taxes and legal awards, to have their children converted to the religion of liberal fascism.

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