Under God

The first amendment reads as follows: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As you know, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal to last year’s decision of the 9th Circuit court of appeals that declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The offending phrase is “One nation under God,” which was added by congress in 1954.

Here is part of what the appeals court said.

“The recitation that ours is a nation ‘under God’ is not a mere acknowledgment that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase ‘one nation under God’ in the context of the Pledge is normative,” the court said in its decision.

“To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice and — since 1954 — monotheism.”

The court also said that an atheist or a holder of certain non-Judeo-Christian beliefs could see it as an attempt to “enforce a ‘religious orthodoxy’ of monotheism.”

They have a point, don’t they? That’s the trouble with legalism and our futile attempts to apply unremitting logic to every belief, every decision. If I imagine myself living in the newly-formed democracy of Iraq, and my children are forced to recite a pledge to their flag, “…and the republic for which it stands, one nation under Allah…” I can imagine having a problem with that. So too, can I imagine an American atheist feeling the same way about “God.” So if our policy is that no citizen of the United States, anywhere, at any time, can be subjected to any word or action that disturbs them or contradicts their beliefs, then don’t we have to expunge the reference to God in our pledge? And on our currency? And in our public buildings? And so on ad infinitum?

Old fogies like myself are wont to ask questions like, “where does it all end?” The answer, sad to say, is that it doesn’t.

DadHistories10/20/03 1 comments


Patrick • 10/21/03 9:39 AM:

My first reaction to this sort of news is “Who cares?” And I mean it from both perspectives. If you’re an atheist living in the USA, aren’t there much graver threats to your lack of belief than the pledge of allegiance? Does the pledge of allegiance exert some hypnotic influence on kids and make them believe in God? Or does it really offend people? On the other hand, if the pledge were changed back and God were removed from it, I also wouldn’t care. I do, however, think it’s a ridiculous waste of time and money to fight it out in court. Let’s just change any national institution anybody wants to change, even if they’re in the minority, even if they’re the only one. But it someone wants it changed back, then we gotta do that too.

I am not a Mason, but the Masonic symbols on my dollar bills don’t really faze me. Am I co-opted? Brainwashed? Should I be enraged?

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