BY HUGO TORRES
Freedom in America means the ability to refrain or participate in religious practice, not to be free from religion in the public square, argued 3L Carrie Campbell on the television show “Nitebeat” that airs on New England CN8. Appearing on the show to discuss the Supreme Court’s Pledge of Allegiance case, Campbell, president of the HLS Society of Life, Law & Religion, shared screen time with Michael Newdow, the plaintiff in the case, and other guests such as Suffolk University constitutional law professor Victoria Dodd.
Titled “Is the Pledge Unconstitutional?” the segment, hosted by host Barry Nolan, discussed the pending case before the Supreme Court. A somber looking Newdow, appearing via satellite from his home in Sacramento, attempted to correct misconceptions about the case. Newdow reaffirmed his position that he had standing to bring the case not only as the father of a school-aged child but also as a concerned citizen. Professor Dodd, meanwhile, debated the prospects of a favorable ruling with Paul Martinek of Lawyer’s Weekly. As for Campbell, she discussed the historical context of the pledge with “Pledge of Allegiance Historian” Dr. John Baer.
Baer offered background on the pledge, pointing to its Bostonian roots. The 19th century socialist minister Francis Bellamy created the pledge. It evolved during the Cold War to include God, in response to communism’s pronounced atheism.
Campbell agreed that the reference to God was inserted during the Cold War, but suggested that there were other reasons why it had been put in. “It’s not so much about the religion as about saying they’re not just rights based on the state,” said Campbell, arguing that certain rights are extrinsic to states and the pledge recognizes that. Making clear her support for previous Supreme Court rulings on the issue, Campbell went on to add that she felt the Court did not need to step in for this case.
Callers to the show were mixed in their support, with some supporting Newdow and his case, while others expressed their firm desire to see references to God remain in place. One caller suggested that those who don’t like a reference to God being a part of the pledge should go back to where they came from, to which host Nolan replied, “should Newdow go back to Sacramento?”
Campbell supported the right of people to not take part in the pledge, but expressed concern over eliminating references to God completely. “We all have freedom,” stated Campbell, “[but] it doesn’t mean freedom from religion…it doesn’t mean the state can’t reflect that we are a religious people.”
“This [the pledge] is not pointing to God in a religious sense, but pointing to our heritage.”