Organic Matter: Supreme Court has chance to offer a sensible decision

I have never met Michael Newdow and hope I never do.

Reading story after story last week on the Associated Press wire about the Sacramento atheist's efforts to have the words "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance has worried me, and left me feeling less than friendly toward him.

In what direction is our country headed?

Newdow certainly is entitled to his own beliefs.

But I hope the courts will not support his argument that the phrase "under God" in the pledge amounts to government endorsement of religion in schools and order those two words stricken from what has been part of the start of the school day for generations of American children.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has stayed its ruling that recitation of the pledge and its reference to "under God" is unconstitutional.

The Elk Grove Unified School District in California, which was the target of a lawsuit by Newdow, now has 90 days to ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case.

But considering the widespread impact of any decision I hope it will not "pass the buck."

A Supreme Court decision would affect the entire country, not just Arizona and eight other western states under the jurisdiction of the federal appeals court.

Newdow's suit against the Elk Grove Unified School District in California contends his daughter should not be subjected to collective recitations of the pledge.

What I am wondering is why Newdow does not pull his daughter out of the public school system and home school her? He then could teach her anything he wishes without trying to trample on the rights of the majority of Americans, who feel their patriotism stirred by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Newdow seems to want his daughter to be educated in a public school at the same time as he is trying to remove one of its cornerstones.

The Supreme Court in similar past cases has ruled sectarian prayers may not be recited in high school graduation speeches and that schools may not punish students for refusing to recite the pledge.

That should be enough to ensure protection of Newdow's daughter.

I say let him buy a pair of earplugs for her to wear during recitation of the pledge if he is afraid of her hearing the words "under God." But don't prevent everyone else's child from speaking or hearing those words.

Elk Grove school officials said they would have students sing the national anthem if the appeals court had not delayed its decision.

That is now done in many schools and it adds a little more patriotism when sung following the pledge.

But the national anthem should not be the lone morning observance in schools.

The Supreme Court has not barred state legislatures from opening sessions with the Pledge of Allegiance.

But it may do so in schools.

Can you imagine no pledge being recited in schools or a version that states "one nation (pause) indivisible with liberty and justice for all?"

If the court supports Newdow, atheists everywhere will rejoice.

But everyone else will have to wonder if patriotism is still alive in this country.

Is patriotism a word in the atheist vocabulary?

* * *

Preparing to feed American men and women who may be involved in war with Iraq is an enormous task.

The Department of Defense has three contract sites making prepackaged meals at the rate of 350,000 cases per month.

Those sites are in Evansville, Ind., McAllen, Texas, and Mullins, S.C., an AP story stated.

Ameriqual Foods in Evansville has doubled its workforce from 425 to 850 to keep up with the demand for the meals, also known as MREs, which can be stored for up to three years in temperatures ranging from 60 degrees below zero to 120 degrees in desert locales.

Roughly 300,000 American military personnel deployed for possible war now are receiving the meals.

Current offerings include Thai chicken, country captain chicken, beef teriyaki and pasta with vegetables.

But there are 24 choices available in all, including burritos and shrimp jambalaya.

TV news reports often describe life on a Navy ship and how good the cuisine is, especially aboard submarines.

It's good to know our ground forces are not only being offered a varied selection of meals, but that each contains about 1,300 calories and is Surgeon General-approved with the right nutrients to provide balanced meals for three weeks.

Good food is bound to lead to good morale, a critical factor in fighting a sustained war and winning it.

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.