CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I don't like Minister(?) Michael Newdow
He's inconsistent and annoying

I don't know Michael Newdow, but I already know I wouldn't like him if I did. No, I haven't read a biography about the guy, and I don't know anyone who knows him personally. Everything I need to know about the guy can be seen from the three notorious cases he has now been a part in filing and the so-called churches with which he is associated.

The first case he filed, if you aren't familiar with Mr. Newdow, was the case seeking to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. I am personally opposed to removing the phrase because the Constitution permits the public acknowledgement of religion. The Pledge's reference to "God" is a benign general reference to God which could be any number of gods that are dearly held by people within this country. I am certainly sympathetic to the desire of any atheist who doesn't believe in any God and feel that the phrase "under God" should be removed from the pledge, but at the same time I can't help but notice that atheists like Mr. Newdow don't seem to be particularly responsive to my concerns that I would like acknowledgement of my beliefs every bit as much as he wants acknowledgement of his non-belief. After all, if he wants me to be sympathetic to his belief that there is no God, shouldn't he be at least as sympathetic to my belief that there is one? If it is wrong to demand that a prayer be a part of public ceremony (such as a graduation), isn't it just as wrong to demand that a prayer not be?

I became even less sympathetic to Mr. Newdow when it became apparent that his ex-wife with custody of their child is an active Christian. At that point, it became painfully obvious that Mr. Newdow's primary reason for bringing the suit in the first place was to "stick it to" his ex-wife. I think the court was absolutely justified in dismissing this first suit on the basis that he lacked standing to bring it.

I became completely unsympathetic to the guy when I learned that he calls himself Rev. Dr. Newdow because he holds a certificate as an "ordained minister" of the Universal Life Church. What type of church is the Universal Life Church? For starters, it will ordain anyone for the asking. According to the Universal Life Church's website:

You can become a legally ordained minister, instantly, online, at this website. The Universal Life Church is totally non-denominational, interfaith and welcomes all religions. After you fill out the ordination form, you will receive a pop-up instant credential, which serves as your receipt of your ordination. Print it immediately.

The Universal Life Church has no standards for ordaining its leaders and ministers. Anyone can become an ordained minister: all one needs do is apply and the certificate of ordination and you can immediately print a certificate! What a deal.

Of course, the ease of gaining a certificate is only equaled by the ease of living up to the tenets of the religion. Again, according to the Universal Life Church webpage:

We believe you, we believe in you, we accept you - we offer our hand to you to share respect, wealth, power and influence in the world through the power of God as you believe; your beliefs count in the ULC.

We ask only that you promote the freedom of religion and do that which is right. It is up to the individual to determine what is right as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others and is within the law. That is as close to the Golden Rule as one can come.

Anyone familiar with the failings of moral relativism can easily see the inherent problems in this supposed tenet of faith. I suppose that being a "church" the Universal Life Church should be able to set an exception or limit to its central teaching that each individual should determine what is right by restricting those determinations to actions that do not "infringe on the rights of others." Still, I wonder on what basis the "church" has determined that infringing on the rights of others is beyond the abilities of the individual members to determine is their right?

Not satisfied to be a member of this organization, Mr. Newdow is also the founder of the First Amendmist Church of True Science--an organization that doesn't seem to have any real purpose other than to promote Mr. Newdow's view that the First Amendment should be anti-religious. Consider this from the first "sermon" from the First Amendmist Church of True Science website:

As the acronym suggests, FACTS is not based on the supernatural. Any present-day “god” is no more likely to represent a reality than is Amen-Ra, Zeus, the bogeyman, Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. Our religious philosophy is that the true and eternal bonds of righteousness and virtue stem from reason rather than mythology. It recognizes that it is never possible to prove that something does not exist, but finds that fact to be an absurd justification to accept the unproven. The bizarre, the incredible and the miraculous deserve not blind faith, but rigorous challenge. Thus, we find that belief in a deity represents the repudiation of rational thought processes, and offends all precepts of science and natural law. Our religion incorporates the same values of goodness, hope, advancement of civilization and elevation of the human spirit common to most others. We, however, feel that all these virtues must ultimately be based on truth, and that they are only hindered by reliance upon a falsehood, which we believe trust in any God to be.

[By the way, are we, then, atheists or agnostics? The distinction may be illusory. An atheist denies the existence of god; the agnostic claims that the existence cannot be known. Thus, the agnostic (in actuality) denies the existence of the proof just as the atheist denies the existence of the entity. In any event, both are saying that no proof exists to justify a belief in god, and both would believe in god were such proof to arise.]

Well, if we don’t believe in any god, what do we believe in? As our name suggests, we believe in the principles epitomized in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, combined with basic scientific method. The First Amendment reminds us that people see things differently, and guarantees that every individual will be afforded an opportunity to express ermself [sic] and follow rees [sic] own conscience. Scientific method, on the other hand, tempers our use of the First Amendment’s principles. Although, ultimately, we hold the freedoms of thought and expression in the highest regard, we nonetheless have markedly diminished respect for those thoughts that are not based on data, logic and ratiocination.

In a future blog, I intend to dissect this type of ridiculous statement, but for now I will merely say that this is another "church" that does not fall under any common understanding of a church. If anything, it is a parody of a church. Mr. Newdow is simply using this "church" as a vehicle to claim some moral authority for his position while being disrespectful of other people's religious beliefs.(This disrespect is, by the way, contrary to the profession of respect for religion held by the Universal Life Church which, as noted above, states: "We believe you, we believe in you, we accept you - we offer our hand to you to share respect, wealth, power and influence in the world through the power of God as you believe; your beliefs count in the ULC." Obviously, Mr. Newdow is a heretic in his own "church".)

Although he lost the first case, the fame and glory he received has gone to his head. He has now filed two new lawsuits challenging the acknowledgement of religion in the public square. The first is actually a second stab at removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

Michael Newdow is again suing to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. * * * In the latest challenge filed in Sacramento federal court on Monday, eight co-plaintiffs have joined the suit, and all are custodial parents or the children themselves, Newdow said."

The second case is also a second stab at a case he previously lost seeking to bar President Bush from having an inaugural prayer given by a Pastor at his upcoming inauguration. According to the Sacramento Bee:

Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow is making headlines for a second time this week with a federal lawsuit to prevent a prayer from being said during President George W. Bush's upcoming inauguration. * * * Newdow filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing the invocation is unconstitutional and is seeking an expedited hearing of his case, which is tentatively scheduled for January 14. He says the prayers violate the separation of church and state.

I have not been able to read Mr. Newdow's brief, but I cannot imagine how he even remotely believes that he will be successful in this endeavor in light of the Supreme Court case of Marsh v. Chambers. In Marsh, the U.S. Supreme Court examined whether the use of a Legislative Chaplain in the Nebraska legislature violated the First Amendment. The court, after noting that a long unbroken practice has merit in determining the Constitutionality of an act such that "an unbroken practice . . . is not something to be lightly cast aside," continued:

No more is Nebraska's practice of over a century, consistent with two centuries of national practice, to be cast aside. It can hardly be thought that in the same week Members of the First Congress voted to appoint and to pay a chaplain for each House and also voted to approve the draft of the First Amendment for submission to the states, they intended the Establishment Clause of the Amendment to forbid what they had just declared acceptable. In applying the First Amendment to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), it would be incongruous to interpret that Clause as imposing more stringent [463 U.S. 783, 791] First Amendment limits on the states than the draftsmen imposed on the Federal Government.

This unique history leads us to accept the interpretation of the First Amendment draftsmen who saw no real threat to the Establishment Clause arising from a practice of prayer similar to that now challenged. We conclude that legislative prayer presents no more potential for establishment than the provision of school transportation, Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), beneficial grants for higher education, Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672 (1971), or tax exemptions for religious organizations, Walz, supra.

Consider the argument filed by the American Center for Law and Justice in their Amicus Brief in opposition to Mr. Newdow's motion for a preliminary injunction. (It should be noted that the ACLJ contends that Mr. Newdow should preliminarily be barred from bringing this suit on the basis of Res Judicata since he brought the same suit in 2001 and lost, hence the reference to the prior suit).

Rejecting Newdow’s arguments to the contrary, the district court in his prior lawsuit concluded that prayer at presidential inaugurations is controlled by Marsh. Presidential inaugurations have included formal prayers by Christian ministers since the inauguration of George Washington. Moreover, the Inaugural Addresses of virtually every President have invoked assistance of the Divine to the enterprise of the Presidency and for the blessing of the Nation and its People. Pursuant to a congressional resolution, after the oath of office was administered and the President had given his inaugural address, he, along with the Vice President and members of Congress proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel for the recitation of prayers by the chaplain of Congress. Although no longer conducted in a church, inaugural prayers remain integral to the inauguration ceremony to this day. Every inaugural ceremony for the last sixty-five years has included explicit supplications to Jesus Christ. Moreover, inaugural prayers during the last two centuries have incorporated the Lord’s Prayer found in the book of Matthew.
(Footnotes omitted.)

The ACLJ continues by showing that no caselaw since Marsh was originally decided in 1983 undercuts the decision. It appears that Mr. Newdow has filed a suit that he has no chance of winning (unless he comes across a really nutty judge--there are some out there). So, having entered into a career in law (I guess he wasn't making enough money as a minister of the Universal Life Church), he appears to have become the exact type of hack attorney that is so despised by the American public, i.e., an attorney trying to push the limits of the law when common sense says "go home and live with it."

No, I am sure that I would not like Michael Newdow.

2 comments:

Even the Sacramento Bee, one of the most liberal bastions of social prejudice can find little in Newdow to admire. They gave him news coverage because any attempt to liberalize the constitution is a good thing to them, but they did not give him editorial support. The Bee knew in the beginning that Newdow had no legal standing to bring the case as he was not a custodial parent, but only mentioned it in passing in one sentence hidden in a back page.

We who live in the Sacramento area have gotten used to much of the nonsense that comes out of our state's capitol, but Newdow is a bit much for most residents and even San Francisco barely gave him any support. He comes across in his interviews as selfish, egocentric and incredibly annoying. It is no wonder that he fails to see the hypocrisy of calling himself "reverend" and declaring himself an atheist.

None of this is about humanism, atheism, agnosticism or anything else. It is all about Newdow and always has been only about Newdow. The rest is merely the means for his notoriety. He really couldn't care less about those issues. They are only the means to his egotistical end and his fifteen minutes of fame.

Even the Sacramento Bee, one of the most liberal bastions of social prejudice can find little in Newdow to admire. They gave him news coverage because any attempt to liberalize the constitution is a good thing to them, but they did not give him editorial support. The Bee knew in the beginning that Newdow had no legal standing to bring the case as he was not a custodial parent, but only mentioned it in passing in one sentence hidden in a back page.

We who live in the Sacramento area have gotten used to much of the nonsense that comes out of our state's capitol, but Newdow is a bit much for most residents and even San Francisco barely gave him any support. He comes across in his interviews as selfish, egocentric and incredibly annoying. It is no wonder that he fails to see the hypocrisy of calling himself "reverend" and declaring himself an atheist.

None of this is about humanism, atheism, agnosticism or anything else. It is all about Newdow and always has been only about Newdow. The rest is merely the means for his notoriety. He really couldn't care less about those issues. They are only the means to his egotistical end and his fifteen minutes of fame.

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