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Ebert on the Pledge
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Roger Ebert takes time out from reviewing movies to comment on the 9th Circuit Pledge ruling, and I like the distinction he makes here:

This is really an argument between two kinds of prayer--vertical and horizontal. I don't have the slightest problem with vertical prayer. It is horizontal prayer that frightens me. Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven. It need not be spoken aloud, because God is a spirit and has no ears. Horizontal prayer must always be audible, because its purpose is not to be heard by God, but to be heard by fellow men standing within earshot.

To choose an example from football, when my team needs a field goal to win and I think, ''Please, dear God, let them make it!''--that is vertical prayer. When, before the game, a group of fans joins hands and ''voluntarily'' recites the Lord's Prayer--that is horizontal prayer. It serves one of two purposes: to encourage me to join them, or to make me feel excluded.

I'm not sure I'd equate "under god" with prayer, but he makes a valid point. No one is restricted from making private, even openly vocal, religious declarations. What's at stake is whether or not others should be coerced into saying something they don't necessarily believe.

How many Americans, I wonder, would answer the following question with a "yes":

Do you feel that religion is mostly a private matter, between you and your god, or a public one?

I would imagine a large percentage of believers would answer "yes" (though I suppose I could be wrong). Thus, public declarations of belief are not about your relationship with god, they are about demonstrating your beliefs to others.

And basically, the government shouldn't be in the business of facilitating public demonstrations of religious belief.

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