Sometimes it's best to just take a breath.
For instance, it would have been better if the California atheist who went to court to protect his second grade daughter from reciting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance had simply told her, "Honey, when you get to that part, just take a breath. 'Under God' isn't something we believe in."
He could have taught her a valuable lesson, even at her young age, that sometimes people who believe differently from the mainstream must have the courage not to go along with everyone else, but must realize that the majority isn't going to change its ways to suit a small minority.
Protection of the court
But he didn't. He did what true-blooded Americans everywhere do these days. He went to court. He filed suit to protect his daughter from what he saw as a violation of her right not to be offended by hearing all her classmates say "God."
And then he got lucky. He got two members of a three-judge panel to agree that, indeed, the Pledge of Allegiance as amended in 1954 is unconstitutional.
And now it's time for everyone else to just take a breath. That advice, unfortunately, is too late for virtually every politician in all 50 states who felt compelled to express their absolute horror at this court decision.
The ruling, which gives perhaps the strictest reading of the "establishment clause" of the Constitution that any court ever gave, is no reason for God-fearing folks to hyperventilate.
For one thing, it only affects nine Western states. For another, even in those states, the court's order has been stayed until the entire 9th Circuit can consider the case. And finally, if the 9th Circuit doesn't overturn this ruling, rest assured that the Supreme Court of the United States will.
No prayer here
At the end of the day, we'll still have "In God We Trust" on our currency, God's name will still be invoked to protect our honorable courts and children will still describe America as "one Nation, under God" when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Ironically, these recognitions of God will survive because they have become so common, so taken for granted and, in the case of the Pledge, so rote, that they do not rise to the level of prayer. Their value to society lies in their traditional and historical nature, not their prayerfulness.
Of even greater irony is the response of a relatively small number of people who exhibited a hatefulness that goes beyond unseemly. The judges received death threats, for God's sake.
This newspaper has steadfastly stood against breaking down the wall that separates church and state in this country. We're close to being absolutists on the issue. But the Pledge of Allegiance is an expression of patriotism -- no more a prayer than saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes.
So, everyone, just take a breath, and use wisely the moment of silence that results.