Opinion: "Enslaving" Religion to Public Life Renders It Devoid of Meaning and Power

April 5, 2004

Source: The New Republic


On April 5, 2004 The New Republic ran an opinion piece by Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic's literary editor, about the "Under God" case. He writes, "As I watched the Supreme Court discuss God with Michael A. Newdow, the atheist from California who was defending his victory in a lower court that had concurred with his view that the words 'under God' should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance because it is a religious expression, and was therefore responding to the Bush administration's petition to protect the theism in the Pledge...The discussion that morning fully vindicated the majesty of the chamber, as legal themes gave way to metaphysical themes and philosophy bewitched the assembly. But something strange happened. Almost as soon as philosophy was invited, it was disinvited. It seemed to make everybody anxious, except the respondent. I had come to witness a disputation between religion's enemies and religion's friends. What I saw instead, with the exception of a single comment by Justice Souter, was a disputation between religion's enemies, liberal and conservative. And this confirmed me in my conviction that the surest way to steal the meaning, and therefore the power, from religion is to deliver it to politics, to enslave it to public life."