Patriot Practitioner

American Enterprise, September 1, 2002.


World War II Navy veteran, scholar of Constitutional law and political philosophy, prolific author, patriot, and gentleman–those are just a few terms to describe AEI’s old-school resident scholar Walter Berns. Mr. Berns sat down with TAE senior editors Karina Rollins and Eli Lehrer to discuss the past, present, and future of our union, which, as the author of Making Patriots explains, is far from certain.

TAE: What do you make of the recent ruling by California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are un-Constitutional?

BERNS: The notion of extreme separation of church and state first gained real emphasis in the nineteenth century, fueled by anti-Catholicism. Hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics immigrated here, and American Protestants felt threatened. But this idea of “separation” has no basis in the Constitution of the United States. We’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say about the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, because there will be an appeal.

Similar anti-religion suits have sprung from opposition to public display of the Ten Commandments. These are connected to a change in the practice of Constitutional law. It used to be that one had to show some particular interest in a law or practice before one could file a suit objecting to it. In legal jargon, one had to have legal “standing” on the issue. But then the courts relaxed the standing requirement, and made it easy for anybody to go to court to protest such things on essentially political grounds.

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