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RFD on Kasmic & Romanii's "Under God" Debate

YYW
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9/4/2015 4:31:52 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
This debate is about whether the phrase "under god" should be removed from the pledge of allegiance. It's a normative resolution, so the burdens on both parties are equal. Anyone who says anything to the contrary is wrong. If this concept is too hard to grasp, consult my voting guide linked on my profile for your general edification.

PRO opens with the "original" pledge. Conspicuously, it omits the phrase "under God." PRO explains that the Pledge's purpose is to promote unity, and that the phrase "under God" alienates and separates atheists from theists, thereby causing a division (a claim which he seem to take for granted). (As an aside, It doesn't matter that he linked me to something. I only judge the words written on the page. Doing otherwise might enable someone to exploit character limits, which would be inappropriate.) PRO asserts that "children" primarily recite the pledge. (I am left to wonder how many atheist school children there are.) PRO brings up the consideration of separation of church and state, but the quotes which he include -while artful in various ways- don't tell me how the phrase "Under God" violates the said constitutional principle.

PRO then argues that the phrase "under God" does not promote patriotism, which is inconsistent with the phrase's inclusion's purpose -which was to culturally thwart communism under the cold war. But, the analysis PRO has to offer is weak if existent at all. He just takes for granted that it's "not patriotic." He might have said that because the phrases inclusion tends to alienate atheists, at the expense of unity, thereby undercutting patriotism... but he didn't make that connection. He just said 'this phrase is not patriotic' and 'the reason for including it in the pledge no longer exists.' The latter clause doesn't imply the former. This is a weak argument. (Thoughts on PRO's first round: He seriously needs to make connections to concepts, and ground his claims.)

CON argues that the principle of the separation of church and state ("SCS") is not violated because all SCS requires is the use of state power to promote any specific religion, and prevents the government from making laws which prevent others from practicing their religion. Basically, SCS does not require the government to purge from its many writings, papers, etc. all references to religiously oriented concepts. A lucid reading of the plain language of the first amendment generally supports this analysis, which directly clashes with PRO's arguments, and undermines them accordingly.

CON's second argument is about opportunity costs, which does reasonably clash with PRO's point about unity, but CON's criticism ( e.g. " issue of "Under God" being in the pledge has literally *no* serious impact on *anyone*.") doesn't really persuade. It's basically the same kind of offering that PRO made, which was unsubstantiated. Both of those points were neutral, with regard to their impact on the debate's outcome.

The pledge being not mandatory doesn't matter, because it's an official government thing -this helps PRO. (The whole reason we can talk about stuff in the bill of rights is because this involves government stuff.) There is a difference between promoting theism and violating the establishment and free exercise clauses, but because I'm not persuaded by the argument that there *is* harm caused by the phrases inclusion, I therefore cannot be persuaded by the argument that the phrase *promotes theism* -this helps CON. The symbolism point doesn't matter for either side.

The history and tradition of the pledge, though, is probably the weakest argument -insofar it neither helps nor hurts either pro or con. The fact that the phrase was formerly omitted doesn't mean that it should be omitted now. What matters is whether the phrase's inclusion violates the first amendment. To resolve that issue, I need to know at the very least (1) what is the right, and (2) what is the violation of the right.

Suggestions:

The bill of rights is basically a list of stuff that the government cannot do. For example, the government cannot make a state religion, and it can't create laws or schemes which prevent people from practicing their religion. There is a difference between "establishing a religion for the state" and "preventing a person from practicing a religion" and "generally alluding to the existence of a God around which many religions may be oriented." Atheism is not a religion; it's the absence of religion. So, to the former issue, saying "under God" does not establish a religion" any more than, with respect to the latter issue, it infringes on anyone's practice of their religion. SCS does not mean "the government shalt make no reference or allusion to any god."

However, the issue alienation could have been a much more prudently explored point from PRO's side -and if he'd actually substantiated that point he would have had a viable argument, at least, and he may even have won the debate. if PRO could have shown something like "The government's ratifying in its official pledge of allegiance a phrase which implicitly requires people to profess religious beliefs that they do not have if taken, and which institutes policies which compel individuals to take such a pledge, infringes on their constitutional rights." that might have carried the day. I don't know what CON would have said, but it would have been a much stronger argument.

At the very least, I'd like to know how many atheist school children (read: the people who are most likely to be compelled to take the pledge, and who, as a class of persons, are most likely to have their rights violated) there are. But in reality, the remedy in that case is not necessarily to take the phrase "under God" out of the pledge but, in the alternative, to not require people to say the pledge -which it is already established that the government may not do, meaning that that issue is moot (read dead in the water).
Tsar of DDO
kasmic
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9/4/2015 5:00:10 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thank you for reading and voting!

I have a few questions. Well only one really.

You said

PRO opens with the "original" pledge. Conspicuously, it omits the phrase "under God." PRO explains that the Pledge's purpose is to promote unity, and that the phrase "under God" alienates and separates atheists from theists, thereby causing a division (a claim which he seem to take for granted). (As an aside, It doesn't matter that he linked me to something. I only judge the words written on the page. Doing otherwise might enable someone to exploit character limits, which would be inappropriate.)

I see what you mean here. Especially if Con had contended the point. So my claim is in a way a bare assertion, though it is linked. If not refuted it would stand right?

I only ask because I don"t really see where con refutes the claim.

He says "the very existence of an official national pledge already "alienates" a significant minority of citizens, including unpatriotic Americans, anarchists, and members of certain religious sects which believe it to be a sin to pledge allegiance to any entity lesser than God"

So even if my assertion is bare, it stands that the pledge causes alienation.

I only bring this up because you say that"

However, the issue alienation could have been a much more prudently explored point from PRO's side -and if he'd actually substantiated that point he would have had a viable argument, at least, and he may even have won the debate.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and vote. I appreciated it.
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YYW
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9/4/2015 6:49:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/4/2015 5:00:10 PM, kasmic wrote:
Thank you for reading and voting!

I have a few questions. Well only one really.

You said

PRO opens with the "original" pledge. Conspicuously, it omits the phrase "under God." PRO explains that the Pledge's purpose is to promote unity, and that the phrase "under God" alienates and separates atheists from theists, thereby causing a division (a claim which he seem to take for granted). (As an aside, It doesn't matter that he linked me to something. I only judge the words written on the page. Doing otherwise might enable someone to exploit character limits, which would be inappropriate.)

I see what you mean here. Especially if Con had contended the point. So my claim is in a way a bare assertion, though it is linked. If not refuted it would stand right?

I only ask because I don"t really see where con refutes the claim.

There is a difference between "a claim" standing and "an argument" standing. Your claim that there was an original purpose to the phrase "under God" being violated does stand, but that claim was a premise in an argument that you were advancing which went beyond the claim as a premise, which was refuted. The argument you made was "the purpose has elapsed, so the phrase should be removed."

That is an argument which was directly and indirectly refuted. Indirectly by his saying that "this is going to consume too many resources to do" and directly by refuting the implication that the phrase promotes theism (a necessary implication of your "original purpose" argument). But sure, the claim stands.... the impact does not.

He says "the very existence of an official national pledge already "alienates" a significant minority of citizens, including unpatriotic Americans, anarchists, and members of certain religious sects which believe it to be a sin to pledge allegiance to any entity lesser than God"

So even if my assertion is bare, it stands that the pledge causes alienation.

He made some unsubstantiated assertions too.

I only bring this up because you say that"

However, the issue alienation could have been a much more prudently explored point from PRO's side -and if he'd actually substantiated that point he would have had a viable argument, at least, and he may even have won the debate.

You guys were even, in terms of everything. The dispositive argument was his interpretation (which I think is correct) of the establishment and free exercise clauses.

Basically, if you're going to make a constitutional argument with respect to a bill of rights issue (or a civil rights issue generally), you've got to show how something that the government is doing infringes on a specific right that you have; or at least how something specific that the government is doing is beyond that power which it can constitutionally exercise.

That seems pretty straightforward, but it's not. The establishment and free exercise clauses have very precise meanings, which have been interpreted over decades of jurisprudence. No where in that history will you find caselaw that says that the phrase "under God" violates either. It's just not there.

So, maybe you go an alternative route... maybe due process or equal protection. Idk. An argument could be made to that end (even though I doubt it would be successful in any court in this country). However, to the extent that you can articulate something like "this denies people equal protection under the law" or "this violates people's due process rights" there you might be making a more viable argument.

I say that not to discourage... because making legal arguments calls upon skills that you just don't have. It's not because you're inept or anything, it's just that constitutional law is very complicated. That said, the fact that caselaw says one thing today doesn't mean that it's always going to say that same thing. Legal rules change over time, especially where creative attorneys can make arguments that are sufficiently persuasive to warrant something being changed (e.g. the gay marriage cases over the past few years). So, you've got a chance, but it's kind of a long shot.

(That said, I'm a "long shot" kind of guy... so it's not like I'm going to say, in regard to an issue that is not objectively settled, "SCOTUS says X, therefore that is the end of it." Make your argument; we'll see how it stacks up.)

Thanks again for taking the time to read and vote. I appreciated it.

Cheers
Tsar of DDO
kasmic
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9/4/2015 6:57:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/4/2015 6:49:42 PM, YYW wrote:
At 9/4/2015 5:00:10 PM, kasmic wrote:
Thank you for reading and voting!

I have a few questions. Well only one really.

You said

PRO opens with the "original" pledge. Conspicuously, it omits the phrase "under God." PRO explains that the Pledge's purpose is to promote unity, and that the phrase "under God" alienates and separates atheists from theists, thereby causing a division (a claim which he seem to take for granted). (As an aside, It doesn't matter that he linked me to something. I only judge the words written on the page. Doing otherwise might enable someone to exploit character limits, which would be inappropriate.)

I see what you mean here. Especially if Con had contended the point. So my claim is in a way a bare assertion, though it is linked. If not refuted it would stand right?

I only ask because I don"t really see where con refutes the claim.

There is a difference between "a claim" standing and "an argument" standing. Your claim that there was an original purpose to the phrase "under God" being violated does stand, but that claim was a premise in an argument that you were advancing which went beyond the claim as a premise, which was refuted. The argument you made was "the purpose has elapsed, so the phrase should be removed."

That is an argument which was directly and indirectly refuted. Indirectly by his saying that "this is going to consume too many resources to do" and directly by refuting the implication that the phrase promotes theism (a necessary implication of your "original purpose" argument). But sure, the claim stands.... the impact does not.

He says "the very existence of an official national pledge already "alienates" a significant minority of citizens, including unpatriotic Americans, anarchists, and members of certain religious sects which believe it to be a sin to pledge allegiance to any entity lesser than God"

So even if my assertion is bare, it stands that the pledge causes alienation.

He made some unsubstantiated assertions too.

I only bring this up because you say that"

However, the issue alienation could have been a much more prudently explored point from PRO's side -and if he'd actually substantiated that point he would have had a viable argument, at least, and he may even have won the debate.

You guys were even, in terms of everything. The dispositive argument was his interpretation (which I think is correct) of the establishment and free exercise clauses.

Basically, if you're going to make a constitutional argument with respect to a bill of rights issue (or a civil rights issue generally), you've got to show how something that the government is doing infringes on a specific right that you have; or at least how something specific that the government is doing is beyond that power which it can constitutionally exercise.

That seems pretty straightforward, but it's not. The establishment and free exercise clauses have very precise meanings, which have been interpreted over decades of jurisprudence. No where in that history will you find caselaw that says that the phrase "under God" violates either. It's just not there.

So, maybe you go an alternative route... maybe due process or equal protection. Idk. An argument could be made to that end (even though I doubt it would be successful in any court in this country). However, to the extent that you can articulate something like "this denies people equal protection under the law" or "this violates people's due process rights" there you might be making a more viable argument.

I say that not to discourage... because making legal arguments calls upon skills that you just don't have. It's not because you're inept or anything, it's just that constitutional law is very complicated. That said, the fact that caselaw says one thing today doesn't mean that it's always going to say that same thing. Legal rules change over time, especially where creative attorneys can make arguments that are sufficiently persuasive to warrant something being changed (e.g. the gay marriage cases over the past few years). So, you've got a chance, but it's kind of a long shot.

(That said, I'm a "long shot" kind of guy... so it's not like I'm going to say, in regard to an issue that is not objectively settled, "SCOTUS says X, therefore that is the end of it." Make your argument; we'll see how it stacks up.)

Thanks again for taking the time to read and vote. I appreciated it.

Cheers

Thanks.

If I were qualified and capable of Constitutional law arguments.... I would be a rich lawyer haha.
"Liberalism Defined" http://www.debate.org...
"The Social Contract" http://www.debate.org...
"Intro to IR An Open Discussion" http://www.debate.org...

Check out my website, the Sensible Soapbox http://www.sensiblesoapbox.com...
My latest article: http://www.sensiblesoapbox.com...
YYW
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9/4/2015 7:24:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
The thing is that if you want the remedy to be "removing the phrase 'under God' from the pledge" then you have to make an establishment clause argument, although the problem is that simply having the said phrase in the pledge does not respect any established religion. The concept of "God" (notice that "God" is capitalized) does tend to imply religious "stuff" but that's really it. It doesn't go further than that.
Tsar of DDO
YYW
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9/4/2015 7:25:27 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 9/4/2015 6:57:59 PM, kasmic wrote:
Thanks.

If I were qualified and capable of Constitutional law arguments.... I would be a rich lawyer haha.

Sure thing, and cheers.
Tsar of DDO