24 March 2004

On the Other Hand…

The Perfesser wonders what might happen to Mr. Newdow's daughter if she becomes known as "the kid who took God out of the Pledge." It's a perfectly reasonable question, because the "singling out" does indeed work both ways. The Perfesser cites William Murray, the child of atheist Madeleine Murray O'Hair, as an example of "inverting" the parent's intended result. Perhaps; but then again, one might go on to become mayor of the town that was so grievously harmed by removal of religion from school funding. The Perfesser might well remember this one: the individual in question is Daniel McCollum, who served as mayor of Champaign, Illinois for several terms after having been the "affected child" in the linked case.

The real problem is that, while these incidents are certainly significant in shaping the adult from the child, the resulting shape depends upon so many other factors that I think the Perfesser's concern is vastly overstated. It seems to me more important that the parent ensures that the child understands that the parent is looking out for what he or she believes is the child's best interests (McCollum), not using the child to make a point (Murray O'Hair). I think that the Court reached the right legal result in both cases; I also think that family function, and sometimes dysfunction, greatly overshadows anything that might have "resulted from" the litigation, even assuming that one can show causation. After all, I think it highly likely that, even if Murray O'Hair had lost, she would have continued with similar courses of conduct, possibly resulting in the shunning that supposedly resulted from the lawsuit.

Clarification, 2200/24 Mar: My point is not a lack of sympathy for the Newdow girl. It is only that parent who treat their children like tools for litigation tend to treat them like tools in other contexts, resulting in a screwed-up kid either way.