Many people know Pat Boone as America’s dialysis machine for black music — a singing semi-permeable membrane designed to filter out the harmful authenticity from rhythm and blues so it can be consumed safely, without the danger of innocent white teenagers going into cultural toxic shock. In the process, Pat, much like Elvis, pioneered an entirely new style of music — Rhythm and Blue Rinse. But fewer people are aware that Boone is also a Constitutional scholar of some note (b-sharp, specifically).
Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
How profoundly simple, how elegantly clear and understandable can you get? Our Founding Fathers labored and conferred and, yes, prayed, over this First Amendment to our hallowed Constitution. They honed and pared and polished it, until it still shines like a rare diamond.
Although nowadays it’s kind of a conflict diamond, but still…
It says exactly and precisely what they intended.
Whereas the rest of the Bill of Rights is crammed full of code words, puzzles and Easter eggs.
How is it, then, that today, certain people are straining and misrepresenting and actually twisting it completely out of its pristine meaning?
In fact, I’m not sure why we even have a judicial branch. It’s not as though the Constitution is open to interpretation; the thing’s about as nuanced as a Stop sign.
A man named Newdow, in San Francisco, adamantly quotes just the first phrase, before the comma, in his diabolical quest to wrench the two words “under God” out of our Pledge of Allegiance.
And as every schoolboy knows, the Pledge was so sacred to the Founders that it’s practically the first part of the Constitution they wrote, right after that song explaining how a bill becomes a law.
Though he is trained as a lawyer, supposedly able to interpret the wording of a law – certainly including the wording of the Constitution – he manages to convince a majority of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that he is correct in claiming that those two words might be unconstitutional!
He managed to persuade the Court of Appeals that his legal argument had merit, despite the handicap of being a lawyer? That’s amazing! It’s a triumph of the human spirit! I smell a Lifetime movie…
And that misguided Court then decrees that school children in nine Western states should stop including those words in the Pledge we’ve all been saying since 1954.
Those kids are pretty old to still be in school — how many times have they been held back? Anyway, Pat makes a good point, if only by passive example. Since he was born in 1934, he grew up reciting the pledge without the words “under God,” which would suggest that if you don’t learn the Cold War-era version as a child, you’ll grow up to be a sanctimonious drama queen.
When I confronted Newdow personally on the “Crossfire” TV show, I asked him if he was aware of the next phrase in the Amendment, and why he stopped short of quoting that? He stammered and mumbled something unrelated to my question. And then, when I asked, “You’re aware, aren’t you, that your atheism is a religion, a faith system based on a premise you can’t prove – while the faith system of most Americans is based on a premise the evidence for which is everywhere?”
He answered defensively, “Well, I’m not trying to force my belief on others.” And I shot back “Are you serious? What do you call what you’re doing? You’re trying to silence 99 percent of America because you – one man – don’t believe our affirmation! You’re not trying to force your belief on us?”
Pat appears to be referring to an appearance he made on October 10, 2002. But despite the passage of time, and Pat’s advancing years, his memory retains its razor-sharp, Rashomon-like quality, as witnessed by the transcript:
NEWDOW: It’s the First Amendment. It says, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. If they make a law that respects an establishment of religion, they’re not allowed to do it. They make the laws, but they’re supposed to abide by the constitution.
BEGALA: Pat, go ahead. You wanted to respond?
BOONE: I’d say he left out part of that First Amendment, and I understand why. Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion nor restricting the free exercise thereof.
That’s the rest of that phrase.
NEWDOW: And that’s why you can write a song about God and have as much fun as you want. But the government can’t. That’s what you have to keep separate.
BOONE: Can I — We’ve heard from him. Can I just quote from, and you quoting from the socialist.
Let me quote from the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, and one of the three major writers of the constitution, John Jay. These are his words: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their leaders, their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Now, this was the chief justice of the Supreme Court who helped write the Constitution itself.
Who do you suppose knows a little more about what the Constitution intended?
BEGALA: Well, you aren’t suggesting that we should only vote for Christians as our leaders? I voted for Joe Lieberman for vice president and he got more votes than Dick Cheney. And I think he’s perfectly fit. You aren’t suggesting…
BOONER: No, I’m not suggesting that. I’m quoting the chief justice, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court and one of the guys, one of the three guys along with Adams and Jefferson who wrote, and Monroe, who wrote the Constitution.
NEWDOW: Which doesn’t say anything about Christianity or God.
BEGALA: Jefferson was over in France, actually. He didn’t have anything to do with…
BOONE: They know what they intended.
BEGALA: What they wrote into it was — let me let Michael Newdow jump into this.
NEWDOW: If Pat Boone wants to praise and God and tell us that Christians are great, that’s fine. The government can’t tell us that. That’s all.
BOONE: He is preaching a religion, his atheism, is a belief system concerning God. He believes God doesn’t exist. He can’t prove it. So he has to take that by faith. We believe he does exist.
NEWDOW: I agree 100 percent. But the question is: Why should government come in on your side? Why doesn’t government just stay out of the business?
BOONE: It’s not a matter of government.
BEGALA: That is where we’re going to have to leave the debate.
Pat never got a chance to explain why the First Amendment is “not a matter of government,” and Paul Begala cut him off before he actually had time to “[shoot] back ‘Are you serious? What do you call what you’re doing? You’re trying to silence 99 percent of America because you – one man – don’t believe our affirmation! You’re not trying to force your belief on us?’” And that’s a shame, because the Pat of 2009 really retroactively tears the Michael Newdow of 2002 a new one. In fact, I’d recommend any liberal think twice before taking on Pat Boone in a debate, because he will totally school your ass, providing he has seven years to think of a snappy comeback.
Speaking of school, Pat was apparently absent the day they covered the Pledge in Civics class:
BEGALA: But first, as a liberal, let me salute you for praising the work of the Rev. Francis Bellamy, who was a socialist one-worlder. I didn’t know Pat Boone was plugging a socialist one-worlder’s work.
PAT BOONE, SINGER: Well, you’ll have to clue me in. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
BEGALA: Rev. Francis Bellamy, in 1892, wrote the “Pledge of Allegiance.” He was a Baptist minister and a socialist who most famous sermon was entitled “Jesus the Socialist.”
He saw this as a unifying thing for the world, not just the United States of America.
BOONE: Well, I do then praise him for his crowning achievement, the “Pledge of Allegiance.” I do.
BEGALA: And so you’ve become a proponent of the one-world socialism. Make some news here on CROSSFIRE.
BOONE: No, no, no, no, no. Far from it, in fact. But no, if he wrote it, and I was not aware of that, but I accept it and I’m — and I congratulate him. It’s a great peace of Americana.
That’s the great thing about a steadfast devotion to God and Country — it’s so flexible. When you’re fighting diabolical heathens for the soul of the Union, the Pledge is the lifeblood of liberty; and when someone is tactless enough to bring up its Socialist origins in mixed company, it’s a quaint bit of folklore.
Of course, the malevolent ACLU, like legally trained Storm Troopers, prowls the whole United States trying to tear every religious symbol or statement out of the public square and out of our public life.
School children reciting the Pledge while performing the traditional “Bellamy salute” to the flag. This gesture later became awkward during World War II.
And if we’re going to hunt down the Nazi paralegals and carve crucifixes in their foreheads, we’re going to need to arm ourselves with the deepest and most thoughtful constitutional scholarship available. Luckily, Pat has offered to perform a probing exegesis on the First Amendment, taking the Establishment Clause apart, letter by letter. Even the weirdly elongated S’s.
First, “Congress.” That’s our federal, elected governing body. Not “state” or “county” or “city.” Congress shall make no law … repeat and emphasize no law … that means literally no law at all, pro or con. No law.
OK so far?
“Respecting.” That’s concerning, pertaining to … “an establishment.” Establishing means creating, mandating, bringing into being, making permanent.
So the meaning is incontrovertibly clear: The U.S. Congress shall make no laws at all pertaining to mandating, enforcing, or making permanent any religion. Religion is absolutely off limits, legislatively nonexistent, to our national government.
You know, I never really gave it much thought before, but Pat’s right! Where does Congress get off sprinkling the word “God” onto our money and loyalty oaths, when God is like the CIA’s Blackbriar Program in the Bourne movies — officially, He doesn’t exist! Somebody ought to take these clowns to court!
Jefferson stressed the original intent of the framers of the Bill of Rights. And they, of course, just to make their intent abundantly clear, added the next phrase, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” [...]
That includes license plates. Amazingly, USA Today (Oct. 13) reports the slugfest between folks in more than 24 states over the simple phrase “Choose Life” on their license plates! Planned Parenthood is vehement, threatened and rabid about that phrase being seen on the back of somebody’s car – and have instituted court cases against that vile expression across the country. Five U.S. circuit courts have already ruled on the matter, each coming to different conclusions.
What part of the First Amendment don’t they understand?
Probably the part that prohibits the government from issuing license plates, leaving it to each American motorist to craft his own with a Sharpie, a piece of scrap cardboard, and a spirit of rugged individualism. After all, history tells us that Jefferson himself refused to recognize the right of Virginia to license his barouche, and was known to travel about Washington, D. C. with no ornamentation whatsoever on the after end of his carriage, save for a single bumpersticker that read, “My Other Ride Is My Slave.”