Saturday, October 29, 2005

More on the Torcaso Case

Yesterday in addition to wrongly situating Sen. Bill Brady in Pontiac where he belongs in Bloomington and committing a few typos as my fingers flew over the keyboard too quickly (not an indictable offense, I hope, but these days one cannot be sure) I wrote about the Torcaso case, the Maryland law that required all Maryland public officials and employees to declare their belief in God—which was overruled by an action of the U.S. Supreme Court which declared that the state unconstitutionally invaded Torcaso’s “freedom of belief and religion” in such a way that the “power and authority of the State of Maryland thus is put on the side of one particular sort of believers—those who are willing to say they believe `in the existence of God.’” Using the rationale of Justice Hugo Black, the Court held that nontheistic creeds were defined by the Court to be religious, the Court holding that “neither a state nor the federal government can constitutionally aid all religions as against non-believers and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” I speculated that by making what Justice Black called “secular humanism” a religion the court really ended up favoring a religion to the detriment of others. In other words, if people are denied the right to declare their belief in God because Torcaso didn’t believe in God but his non-belief is a religion, the Court is shading the result in favor of non-belief which it has incardinated as a religion.

Fellow blogger Eric Zorn of the Tribune—with whom I have been engaged in friendly discussions for many years—wrote to ask how I as a Justice would have voted. I would have voted to uphold the Maryland statute, leaving to the state of Maryland the right to either keep it, amend it or discard it as the legislature and governor would warrant. Moreover as a Maryland legislator I would have voted to uphold it basis our historic commitment to such belief. The Declaration of Independence refers to God in four places and while the Constitution does not, this is because it’s a procedural document and not for secularizing purpose. The long history of this nation’s belief in God is not a relic. Therefore in any forum, I would be happy to defend that rationale.

More than anything I’m pleased that Eric likes this blog albeit I’m still learning. Praise from him in this blog business is heartening indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog Tom as well as your WLS show. Keep up the good work!!!