The controversy over lowering the flag for the pope: that's the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." President Bush has signed a proclamation ordering flags of public institutions lowered to half staff out of respect for John Paul II.

In the past, the president has done the same thing for President Reagan (search), Bob Hope (search) and the Columbia shuttle astronauts, to name a few. But in at least two cities, Denver and Madison, Wisconsin (search), some Americans have complained that this is a violation of church and state.

Of course, that's nonsense. The pope heads an independent nation, The Holy See. And as a statesman as well as a religious leader.

Lowering the American flag is simply a sign of respect for a world leader, not a religious endorsement of any kind. Even the ACLU (search) has not jumped on this bandwagon, realizing that after the beating it took over its assault on Christmas, disrespecting the pope might put that organization in jeopardy, so the ACLU says it has no problem with the flag. But at least one atheist organization does. And some other Americans do as well. We'll talk with one of them in just a few moments.

The important part of the controversy is that it demonstrates that any part of our constitution can be used, now, for fanatical purposes. The U.S. constitution is supposed to ensure freedom, but it can be perverted and be used to suppress free expression. Any kind of punitive act, for example, can be called cruel and unusual. Any continued of limitation of behavior, gay marriage, can be called bias. Any kind of spiritual expression can be called a constitutional violation.

It is vital that everyone understands where this country is heading. This crazy flag controversy isn't going to get traction but just the fact that it's become an issue is a signal.

The USA has succeeded because we have constitutional freedoms, but there's no question those liberties are now being challenged in a way that James Madison (search) and Thomas Jefferson (search) never would have imagined.

And that's "The Memo."

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day"...

Mother's Day is coming up in a few weeks. And last year we took some heat, because we did not have "Factor" stuff for mom. Plenty for Dad but zero for Mom.

Now, I admit it was ridiculous. So this year we have two great items. First the "No Spin Mom" mug. Look at that. If your mother brooks no nonsense, if she's a No Spin mom, this is a must. We have it in blue, as you see there, and white.

And then we have these hoodies for Mom, which are self-explanatory. That mom looks a little perplexed.

Remember, much of the money generated by "Factor" gear is given to charity, so everybody wins, especially Mom. And when Mom wins, it is never ridiculous.

I—You can watch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the FOX News Channel. Send your comments to: oreilly@foxnews.com