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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Most Boring Show on Television


According to Wikipedia, Fox News’ “The Five” is “the second-most watched program in all of cable news in the United States, placing only behind ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’” That is absolutely amazing because by any libertarian standard, it’s got to be the most inane, ridiculous, boring program on television.

Want some proof?

Okay, take a look at this segment, in which the five commentators weigh in on a debate over the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. If you’re a statist, you will absolutely love the show because it is a classic example of standard, statist claptrap. But if you’re a libertarian, you might want to ingest a bit of caffeine before you watch it because you’re very likely to fall asleep from boredom before the 3 and 1/2 minute segment ends.

The segment begins with host Bob Beckel’s criticizing parents in Massachusetts who have filed suit to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. From that point on, the program just goes downhill.

The comment by Dana Perino, who served as White House press secretary for the George W. Bush administration, is priceless. She says she saw this type of lawsuit when she worked at the Justice Department. She points out that both houses of Congress enacted resolutions approving the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

What’s her point? Her point is that because the majority of Americans, as reflected by that congressional vote, has voted to approve the use of those words in the Pledge of Allegiance that should be the end of the matter. Hey, this is America, where the majority rules, right? People who don’t like it should just leave, Perino says.

Well, except for one thing that Perino and every other commentator on “The Five” forgot to mention. As the Declaration of Independence points out, everyone is endowed with fundamental, God-given, natural rights, including religious liberty, that are immune from majority rule. That’s what the First Amendment is all about, Ms. Perino. It’s a restriction on the power of the majority. It’s saying that religious liberty is one area where we don’t care how the elected representatives in Congress feel. It’s saying that they just need to butt out of this area. That’s why the First Amendment specifically mentions Congress: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

So, what’s that have to do with the “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools? By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, the protections of the First Amendment apply to state and local governments as much as they apply to Congress and the rest of the federal government.

What do state and local governments have to do with public schools. They own and operate them! Even worse, they force parents to send their children into these institutions. That’s what compulsory school-attendance laws are all about.

Beckel observed that students can opt out of the Pledge. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is whether the state’s subjecting students to a religious principle — i.e., that God exists — violates the First Amendment. In other words, the plaintiffs in the case, who are atheists, are obviously arguing that not only should government schools not be bringing prayer into these institutions, regardless of whether students can opt out or not, they shouldn’t be bringing any form of religious indoctrination into the institution.

Commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle, a legal analyst, asks why it’s necessary to cater to those atheists. She suggests that the children of the people who have brought the lawsuit are victims of their parents’ political beliefs. She obviously feels that the case should just be thrown out of court so that the Christian majority can have its way in teaching every child, including the children of atheists, the correct thing — that God does, in fact, exist. The fact that the children are there by force of law is apparently irrelevant to Guilfoyle.

Greg Gutfield takes the opportunity to make one of the weirdest comments on faith I’ve ever heard. He says that the only way people can have faith is if there is no faith to compare it to.

What? What exactly does that mean? Why in the world does a person’s faith in God depend on there being people who have no faith in God? Isn’t a mindset of faith independent of other’s people’s mindsets? The logical import of what Gutfield is saying is that it would be impossible for everyone to believe in God because then then there wouldn’t be anyone not believing in God to compare it against.

Equally bizarre, Gutfield says that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t a prayer but rather a way for people to thank the country (I’m not sure whether he means the government instead) for giving us freedom. But since when do people’s rights come from the country or the government? They don’t. People’s rights come from God or nature. They preexist country and government.

Eric Bolling points out that U.S. currency has “In God We Trust” and asks whether the attorney for the plaintiffs has stopped accepting it. That’s a silly comment. Wouldn’t the more appropriate question be whether the attorney has filed suit to remove the words from U.S. currency? Indeed, why not ask whether the government has any business issuing currency at all?

In fact, this particular segment of The Five reflects the standard mainstream statist mindset. Notice that not one of them commentators is mentally able to break out of the statist box by challenging the statist system itself at a fundamental level, not only with respect to the role of government in currency but also with respect to its role in education.

For example, not one of them is able to ask: Why should the state be involved in education at all? Why not just separate school and state the way our ancestors separated church and state? Why not repeal compulsory school attendance laws and school taxes and sell off the school buildings? In that way, people could choose to send their children to whatever school they wanted, including those that recite the Pledge of Allegiance, teach religious principles, etc. and those that do not.

No, their mindsets are stuck within the statist box. For them, government schooling is a given. So, they inevitably get embroiled in these silly debates over such things as prayer in public schools, school uniforms, dress codes, and pledges of allegiances.

Indeed, wouldn’t it have been refreshing if just one of them had questioned just the Pledge of Allegiance itself? Or at least pointed out that it was written by a socialist? Wouldn’t that have made for an interesting discussion? Or maybe they could have discussed the reason for changing the hand salute that used to accompany the Pledge of Allegiance to one having the hand over one’s heart.

So, why is “The Five” so popular? I don’t think there can be any question about it. There are still lots of people out there who share the same statist mindset as the members of “The Five,” owing in large part to the public (i.e., government) schools their parents were forced to send them to, where they had the opportunity to dutifully recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day thanking the country or the government for giving them their freedom.


This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.