January 12, 2009

Serving process on the Chief Justice — at his home.

"[Daniel] Portnoy, owner of D.C. Legal Process, was serving papers in atheist Michael Newdow’s challenge of the words 'so help me God' in the oath that President-elect Barack Obama will take next week... [John] Roberts was surprised he was being served at home, Portnoy says. But the process server had to reach Roberts in his individual capacity..."

***

Now, I've broken my silence on the atheist's case about the oath. I don't really want to talk about these attention-seekers, even though I teach Religion & the Constitution, because I resent the way they cause many people to despise the Establishment Clause and to think atheists are litigious louts. I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

64 comments:

Lexington Green said...

I do not like to see the man's lack of security broadcast to the world.

Host with the Most said...

Amen to that.

Why should Newdow et al be able to impose their non-religious views on the rest of us?

Original Mike said...

I resent the way they cause many people to despise the Establishment Clause and to think atheists are litigious louts.

Amen. (can I say that?)

traditionalguy said...

In Georgia the oaths required in legal ceremonies have always included the phrase'"do you swear or affirm...?" I believe this was put in to avoid silly clashes like this one about religion. They tell me some hard shell fundies refuse to swear an oath to god. It's because of some verses in the red letter stuff but taken out of context just to be Special like these Special atheists.

Big Mike said...

I second Lexington's comment.

And I second Prof. Althouse's comment that this media whore Newdow makes all atheists look like louts. I'm an atheist myself, but I see nothing wrong with the phrase "so help me God." Any President needs all the help he (and, eventually, she) can get. If I happen to be wrong, I'd sure appreciate it if God would lend Barack Obama a hand. (But I'm not wrong, and Barack is on his own.)

vnjagvet said...

I wonder if Newdow has considered the adverse impact this ridiculous tactic will have on many of the Justices in deciding whether to consider the merits of his legal position, and if they decide to consider it, in their decision?

Original Mike said...

Barack is on his own.

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid stand ready to help.

Mark O said...

Ann said, "I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade."

Understandable, but to those less enthralled with Obama, this might seem like a good time to raise this issue. Maybe better than, say, July 11.

All those silly Civil Rights marches on Lincoln's birthday. What a downer.

It just seems like the appropriate time even if the challenge is really, really stupid.

Smilin' Jack said...

I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

Goodness yes, how very loutish of them. Because no one at an inauguration has ever demonstrated or sought attention for their cause before. I remember how respectful of the "magic moment" everyone was when W was inaugurated. And this time the moment is even more magical (wonder of wonders!) because the inauguree is (half) black!

jdeeripper said...

I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

Portnoy's complaint is that the oath violates the separation of church and state.

Althouse's complaint is she thinks Portnoy is an attention seeking jerk off who is spoiling the moment when the Magic Negro turns into Mr. President.

jdeeripper's complaint is 95% of lawyers are pests and/or parasites.

Eli Blake said...

And my complaint is with jdeeripper.

A little off the topic, but I wonder out loud if anyone has asked Mr. Newdow what his opinion is of Congressman Ellison taking his oath on the Quran.

I'm sure he'd say he was opposed to it, but at least then he'd end up agreeing with right-leaning Christians about something.

Eli Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli Blake said...

And I don't think this indicates a lack of security.

If the process server had the correct legal documents, I doubt if Justice Roberts' bodyguards, secret service detail or other security (which I'm sure he has) would interfere with the delivery of the document. They are there to guarantee his bodily safety, not to interfere with a legal process.

Cedarford said...

Newdow is not an atheist so much, as he is the rebellious secular son of a Jewish rabbi who became militantly anti-Christian. He occasionally rails on other religions, but sees the US dominated by nefarious Christianists that he can cleverly attack by bypassing democracy and using lawyers as his weapon.

As his ex-wife said about him - a smart, insufferable NYC prick with a giant chip on his shoulder.

************
As for serving the Chief Justice, I wonder how many practicing lawyers would consider serving papers on other sitting judges outside their court hours as healthy for that lawyer's career?

LutherM said...

"We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding."

The oath, as adopted in the U S CONSTITUTION, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" , does NOT include the words "so help me God".

IF I properly recall MARBURY v. MADISON, if something is explicitly laid out in the Constitution (Original Jurisdiction), then it can't be expanded by the Congress.

So please tell me why Obama's "so help me God" is different ?

Bob said...

Just why does any of the Justices require a protection detail? The country will not skip a beat should one die (from natural or criminal causes). A limited number of Executives, such as Prez, need the detail due in large part to having access to the "football". But none of the Justices have such power. They conduct legal reviews and write. If someone takes them hostage its a crime and ugly but no nuke is gonna launch.

Freeman Hunt said...

Wouldn't Obama be the only one who could bring this case as he's the only one taking the oath? And prior to bringing a case, wouldn't he have to try just not saying that part or even giving notice that he wouldn't say that part?

As it is, I think he wants to say that part and doesn't object.

This is silly.

hdhouse said...

It is a tradition. It isn't a religious test to include the words or the phrase.

I'm sure there are people who would bring suit if the president were to affirm that the sky is blue (well sorta blue these days). It is a waste of time and energy.

It isn't a matter of non-religious views as religion has zero to do with the phrase. If it were required to included a reference to God that would be a different matter but I don't think it is nor should it be with Art.6/3 unless I misunderstand that part.

I do think it choice that the CJ was served at home. Oh the life of a process server.

Palladian said...

"I do think it choice that the CJ was served at home. Oh the life of a process server."

Can you say AWKWARD?

The Crack Emcee said...

As an atheist, I find a lot of what atheists do silly - Newdow especially. I see issues like this in a historical context, and they don't bother me in the least. As a matter of fact, at this point, it's kinda sentimental and sweet.

People still believing in it is what bothers me.

Chip Ahoy said...

Crusade. Ha ha ha ha ha. That's a good one.

Nice new pic, by the way.

Smilin' Jack said...

I'm another atheist who doesn't have a problem with Obama invoking God at his inauguration. In fact, before launching into a description of his economic program it might also be appropriate (as a truth-in-advertising kind of thing) to invoke Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy as well.

As for the process server damaging his legal career by serving papers on the CJ, I doubt it. A process server is unlikely to be trying cases before the SC anytime soon. He probably regarded it as his opportunity to "stick it to the Man."

reader_iam said...

Oh, please help me!--Newdow is referred to in the complaint (see page 6) as ... wait for it ...

Reverend of the First Atheist Church of True Science (“FACTS”)

Pogo, can I borrow your hanky (and your phrase, paraphrased, from earlier): sometimes people make my eyes bleed.

Ralph said...

The first George W. added the phrase at his inaugural. So much for Deism.

They tell me some hard shell fundies refuse to swear an oath to god
I thought it was the Quakers who started the affirming.

reader_iam said...

I'm sick of flaps (and lawsuits) like this one, and especially by Newdow. I don't care whether Barack Obama chooses to include the words in question or not. I don't care whether he swears or affirms, for that matter.

Though not directly related to this case, of course, I pretty much exhausted myself on the topic of oaths etc. generally here, in 2006, in a post titled "On My Oath, This Is Nonsense," which I think Althouse might even have linked in a update to one of her posts back then, though I think it was a couple of days later and few read it, IIRC.

And I wholeheartedly agree with what Althouse just wrote: "I resent the way they cause many people to despise the Establishment Clause and to think atheists are litigious louts.

Eli Blake said...

Bob:

I have no problem with secret service protection for Supreme Court justices. I mean, heck, we give to ex-Presidents even when they are done being President.

And the fact is, there are some nuts out there. I've heard of local judges getting death threats, so I'm sure that the Supreme Court justices get them.

I'd just as soon that they are replaced when they choose to retire or the Lord decides it's time, thank you very much.

Palladian said...

"In fact, before launching into a description of his economic program it might also be appropriate (as a truth-in-advertising kind of thing) to invoke Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy as well."

Touché!

AustinRoth said...

Perhaps he has a secondary goal in mind. The serving of these papers and the subsequent legal dispute will force Robert to recuse himself from any of his lawsuits that make it to SCOTUS, will it not?

traditionalguy said...

Ralph... I don't know who the hard shell groups were, but they obviously took Mathew 5:33-37 literally. It does seem pretty literal. I think Jesus warns people not to even risk making an Oath to God and then have to face dealing with the fallout from breaking this type of Oath. Since Jesus seemed to know his Father's ways, maybe a Believer should take it literally. But what do I know.

reader_iam said...

Wasn't there a shooting of a prominent judge (or a family member of such) not all that long ago. (Chicago, maybe?) And I don't think that's the first such occasion.

traditionalguy said...

T Bad Guys always say that to Rob the bank at the north end of town, you first have to start a fire at the south end of town. The corollary to that rule is to set fire to the courthouse or kill the Judge to get a good long continuance. Yes all Judges need security, especially in Atlanta GA, and they always go armed.

Revenant said...

I agree with Newdow that the "under God" clause is both insulting and unconstitutional. That being said, I wish he would shut up about it and go away. Atheists have it hard enough as it is.

JAL said...
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JAL said...

...Obama's magic moment....

?

Zach said...

Is "so help me god" even in the official oath? If I recall correctly, it was spontaneously added by George Washington and copied by every successive president partly as a tradition and partly as an allusion to Washington (and partly as an honest appeal for help).

PatCA said...

Do you think he feels it's a magical moment? To me, he still is...phlegmatic, detached.

Michael said...

I Roberts above the law?

Michael said...

Read Dolt: "Wasn't there a shooting of a prominent judge (or a family member of such) not all that long ago."

Yeah, as are many other regular citizens on a daily basis...who are required by law to adhere to the rules and regulations of our country.

If Roberts feels he shouldn't be served...find another job...elsewhere.

Suck, suck,suck...as he's above the law.

Mark said...

Pushy evangelists always irritate, but none more so than evangelical atheists.

Daryl said...

People don't have to be served at home in order to be served in their "individual capacity."

In fact, if you want to humiliate someone, serve him at work in front of his coworkers.

This is just a stupid and shameful stunt--but we have come to expect nothing less from Mr. Newdow. Go away, you stupid creep.

I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

Barack Obama IS magical. Every moment. He's "the word made flesh." He wears Elvis suits while he's riding his unicorn in front of a rainbow.

Further, Obama doesn't care about this.

You're upset that YOUR magical moment--feeling good about this guy getting into the White House--is being intruded upon by a Constitutional issue that you can't help think about. Michael Newdow has hijacked your brain.

He's a memetic terrorist.

former law student said...

Wouldn't Obama be the only one who could bring this case as he's the only one taking the oath?

Judging from the case he brought as non-custodial parent, either his alma mater (U of Michigan Law School) doesn't cover standing, or he was absent that week.

Further, while the current Court (e.g. Scalia) thinks sodomy is not "deeply rooted in our nation's traditions," I'm pretty sure that they would think "so help me God" is.

Joan said...

Hey, Revenant's back! Hope your ears weren't burning.

Is extra-constitutional the same thing as unconstitutional?

I know you are not arguing the the Chief Executive uttering the four words "so help me God" after concluding his oath of office is the same as Congress making a law establishing a national religion, so can you explain the unconstitutionality of it? I can see how it's more than what was specified, but not how it goes against the Establishment Clause. What am I missing?

reader_iam said...

Who said anything about Roberts being above the law, except you?

I thought someone brought the issue of whether judges ever needed protection details. Thus my comment. Not real invested in the proposition either way.

Also, maybe I didn't read the link closely enough, but I thought the article indicated that Roberts was OK about it. Sorry if I missed otherwise.

reader_iam said...

I sorta like Read Dolt, though. Maybe I'll adopt it.

Donna B. said...

I certainly can't call myself a believer, but I don't want to be associated with Newdow and/or Pharyngula or other raving atheist lunatics, any more than I would want to be associated with Pat Robertson's 700 club.

Ann Althouse said...

"I can see how it's more than what was specified, but not how it goes against the Establishment Clause. What am I missing?"

It's not a violation of the Establishment Clause, but the argument that it is depends on the idea that it forbids a government endorsement of religion and then reading all sorts of age-old traditions and trivial matters as endorsements.

In any case, the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the claim, so the courts shouldn't even get to the merits.

reader_iam said...

Well, thank God for that.

Simon said...

So long as the District Court doesn't grant the temporary injunction -- which would be astonishing given that such would require a showing that Newdow is reasonably likely to succeed on the merits, see, e.g. CLS v. Walker, 453 F.3d 853 (7th Cir. 2006), and Newdow has no chance at all of prevailing on the merits of a claim that the same court has twice rebuffed before -- I don't see the case being anything but an academic exercise.

Ann Althouse said...

I'd call it PR. They aren't much trying to win. They are getting attention in the news by filing a lawsuit. I think they know what they are doing.

Simon said...

Well, if it's PR, they are certainly testing the limits of the maxim that all publicity is good publicity.

Zeb Quinn said...

Atheists have it hard enough as it is.

Yeah, as if the spending of eternity in the lake of fire which they're already facing but opting to discount isn't already a helluva gig.

Pogo said...

Sam Harris in The End of Faith tells us that “we must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it. Given the present state of the world, there appears to be no other future worth wanting.”

And belief in God is so awful, he argues that:
"The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”

Michael Newdow is just living out the leftist's dream, wherein factions are not opposed, as Madison warned, but encouraged and celebrated, begetting (as Madison foresaw) balkanization and the loss of freedom.

If you were unopposed to affirmative action and hate crimes and other special rules for favored groups, you cannot be surprised at people like Newdow, who simply took your playbook and used it for their own purposes.

Intolerance is the hammer of leftist thought, and enforced conformity its end result. Newdow knows this, and makes judicious use of it. Quite an example of our factious future.

rdkraus said...

1. As indicated above, it would not be necessary to serve him at home to sue him individually. But is he even named individually? Isn't he acting in his official capacity as CJ of SP? What would be the point of naming him individually (other than getting a sanction)?

2. I'm an agnostic. I like Newdow. Well, that's not right. I appreciate what he does. If he, or others like him, did not occasionally do things like this, most of us would never even think about these issues. I think he's probably wrong on this issue, but was probably right on the pledge (assuming you accept that the 1st Amd. was incorporated via the 14th which, incidentally, I don't). The Court ducked that issue. It wasn't really decided at all.

Larry J said...

I'm agnostic and find the militant atheists as just as tiresome, boring, and intolerant of different viewpoints as the most hard-core religious fundamentalists, regardless of religion.

knox said...

Well, if it's PR, they are certainly testing the limits of the maxim that all publicity is good publicity.

I don't know, Simon... just by virtue of griping long and incessantly enough, they will eventually be seen as another special interest with legitimacy.

Grievance is the way to power in our country now, to a large extent.

former law student said...

If he did not occasionally do things like this, most of us would never even think about these issues.

No, Newdow's an ass. "Supporters of the First Amendment" should not be asking the government for prior restraint of the President-elect's speech. Can you say "hypocrisy"?

rdkraus said...

Former

I said I thought he was wrong on this one.

former law student said...

I said I thought he was wrong on this one

hi rd. Assdom is incompatible with advocacy -- this taints everything he's ever done. Gadflies are seldom taken seriously even when their points are valid.

Plus the man is a doctor as well as a lawyer -- he should know better than to appear to be on an extended ego trip.

BJM said...

Althouse said:I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

Har. Yes, me thinks Newdow wouldn't dare pull this stunt if the oath was being sworn on the Koran as he'd have a fatwah on his ass faster than he could say process server.

Obama is already in the bubble and the moment, this will be handled by staffers and not intrude upon or affect Obama and his family's enjoyment of and participation in an historical event a whit.

We will see many more of Newdow's ilk seize the news cycle for their particular hobby horses over the next few weeks and months. Obama will artfully placate or side step them.

Unfortunately, presidential campaigns serve up unsustainable expectations, it's the nature of the beast. Barack Obama has been merchandised as a mythical figurehead; a facade he cannot sustain as reality and events will force him to disappoint many until the inevitable deconstruction of the myth begins.

It's an unfortunate but predictable political fact of life; one that a future savvy campaign organization will also exploit just as did Reagan and Clinton before him.

Revenant said...

BJM,

I've never understood how Christians think "if we murdered people the way Muslims do you wouldn't dare criticize us" amounts to any sort of defense of either Christianity or religion in general. Not murdering people who disagree with you is just basic human decency. You don't earn brownie points for it.

furpurrson said...

Mr Newdow is just trying to grab a little spotlight for himself and his monomania about God. What a poor, pathetic little man. He's best ignored.

Justin Levine said...

I resent the way they cause many people to despise the Establishment Clause and to think atheists are litigious louts.

Agreed. But why not attack the problem at its root? The real problem is the awful, contradictory and hair-splitting jurisprudence by the Supreme Court.

When these silly decisions give fuel to litigants, the Justices are ultimately to blame.

Bad said...

Pogo, you really need to learn to summarize people's thoughts more accurately, along with dropping your own conversion disorder sense of the world. Harris doesn't say that "belief in God is so awful" that we might want to kill believers. He argues that belief in certain specific propositions can be that bad: like, say, the idea that crashing a plane into a building will win you heaven. Trying to coyly pretend that Harris is arguing that we round up all grandmas with rosary beads and kill them in a stadium is pure hokum on your part.

OntoWar said...

This site really surprises me. I've seen references to "Althouse" on other blogs I respect, but most of the comments here sound as if they were written by nodding toadies.

As for the "I am an atheist, but ..." comments, I'm reminded of the observation that "everything ahead of the 'but' is a lie."

But my disagreement is with this statement by Ann Althouse:

It's not a violation of the Establishment Clause, but the argument that it is depends on the idea that it forbids a government endorsement of religion and then reading all sorts of age-old traditions and trivial matters as endorsements.

Very briefly, intelligent design people once said that ID was real science and not religion. But then the ID folks got caught with their pants down when the Discovery Institute's Wedge Document was revealed, showing that all along the ID people knew they were pushing a religious agenda secretly and incrementally--they were just being phonies who were lying about it.

The same goes for many religious conservatives now about religion. They know they can't bring about the kind of society and world they want in one great step, and so they push a little here, a little there, a little somewhere else. They want labels in biology books to say that evolution is nothing more than a "theory." They think if they tell teenagers not to have sex, these young adults won't even get to second base before their wedding nights. They want a nativity scene on the front lawn at city hall.

These religious conservatives say they are defending religion, but in all of these cases they are actually pushing what is in fact an alienated understanding of self and human existence--all of which comes from these people's failures to understand themselves and life--and so each of these attempts, while minor in itself, needs to be vigorously rejected.

At one time, religion meant the Golden Rule: How do I become a better person? But now, for many religionists, God and Jesus are their bitches that they use as clubs in their attempts to force others, via RLUIPA, RFRA, and "freedom of religion," to believe and accept their alienated perception of life.

Newdow did have standing, he just didn't know how to articulate it.