June 15, 2004
Long, long ago, but in the same galaxy, I wrote a little ditty in Dan's blog about how the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance was being challenged in court. An atheist wanted the phrase "under God" removed from the pledge, alleging it violated the separation of church and state.That phrase was added 50 years ago, yesterday, to separate the US from the "Godless" Communists. After a nearly 2-year fight, the Supreme Court has dismissed the case on a technicality -- that the challenger suing on behalf of his daughter didn't have custody of the daughter and therefore no right to sue on her behalf. However, I'm sure it'll be back in court before too long.Anyway, I have to say I'm glad. True, the phrase was added in an anti-communist setting, but nonetheless, I feel that it enhances the Pledge and should therefore be kept. Obviously those who feel it violates a separation of church and state don't feel the way I do. I don't think the Founding Fathers had in mind a complete dismissal of God when they wrote the Constitution, and I think the separation thing is being taken too far. But, as much as I hate to say it, the challengers have a case. The first amendment reads
"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. and the interpretation of that is somewhat open to interpretation. Personally, I don't feel that saying "under God" endorses any particular establishment of religion. What do you think?
Posted by charr at 10:04 AM
I've been thinking of this issue for a while, especially since the SC decision. My first reaction was wondering where the harm was in that simple phrase, "under God." I also wondered about the charmed life a person has to lead if their largest hill to climb is whether or not their child repeats that phrase every day in class. So to me, it's not a big deal. I call Heavenly Father many things, "God" being one of them. And since I do believe that divine intervention played a role in the formation of this country, it doesn't even rate a blip on my radar. But to other religions, I guess it might be a huge blip on the radar. How offended would you be if your children had to repeat "under Allah" every morning? Still, that's not a big argument. (And actually, it's a bit of a trite one. So I'll move along.)I think that context plays a large part in this debate and I can't dismiss it as easily as some. The phrase was added in order to influence school children who had to recite the pledge every morning, to keep them from becoming Godless, which in turn would keep them from being Communist. Or so the theory went at the time. So the government was trying influence people's decision whether to believe in God. My problem is this: the government has no business trying to force religion on anyone, which is what it plainly was trying to do. So, I think that it's acceptable to remove "under God" from the pledge.Saying "under God" does endorse a particular religion, or at least, it endorses one particular type of religion: monotheism. I also agree with the SC that the father didn't have a leg to stand on in that case. But it's only a matter of time before someone, who does have a legitimate complaint, will end up in court.
I agree that it endorses monotheism, but the Christian God is the same God that the Jews and Muslims worship (Allah being the Arabic name they use, but it's the Abrahamic God). And I agree that it's not a huge deal, but it does in a way force the belief in a higher power, which I would say the majority of the people endorse, though someone will undoubtedly challenge it.This brings up another discussion that has often been on my mind but opens a potentially huge can of worms. If the majority of the people want something, this being a Democracy and all, does that make it acceptable? That's what we often allow. Does the minority always win?
If they are going to take it out of the pledge, the next thing to go will be the "In God We Trust" on the backs of our dollar bills.
I think we should become more of a Christian society and less of a secular one at this point, with the way the world is going to heck in a handbasket we need something to stand for.
Cameron, the US isn't a democracy. It's a democratic republic, which is an entirely different animal all together. Democracies don't work for many reasons. Mob rule, the idea that the majority is always right, is just one of the issues democracy doesn't handle well at all.I don't think that the minority does or should always win. I think it just seems so sometimes, especially when the issue is something many people don't agree with.I'm generally against government and/or judicial intervention as a rule, so wanting the SC to change the pledge is a bit different for me. But I think that the objective behind adding "under God" is clear: to push US citizens toward Christianity, or at least towards monotheism. And the first amendment is clear on that topic, too. There are more atheists out there than many people realize. And atheism is a religion that deserves as much protection as monotheism.And while we may believe that our God and the Jewish God and Allah are the same, many people do not. I think that this belief is a LDS one. I haven't heard of any other religions believing in this.Miss Ellen, I think that "In God We Trust" should not be removed for two reasons. The first is that paying via cash is not mandatory. You can choose to pay for goods and services by other means, such as check or credit card. If someone conscientiously objects to that phrase, they can choose to pay by other means. School children, however, are forced through peer pressure (at the very least) to recite the pledge, even when teachers say that reciting it is optional. The second reason is that there is no evidence that "In God We Trust" was put on bills to influence the religious beliefs of people. "Under God" was included in the pledge for just that purpose. Like I said in my first comment, context plays a large role in the debate.
Thanks for the comment. I was thinking along that line, though I still feel like the majority should have some say. There seems to be a growing trend of judges making/changing laws recently without the vote of the people and that concerns me some.However, I think you've got a good argument -- that the phrase was added to push people away from "godlessness" and towards monotheism and therefore not constitutional. I had this general idea in mind when writing the post and mentioned the 1st ammendment in defense of that side of the argument. Where it gets fuzzy is that since it's likely such a tiny minority that wants this change, is it right to go against what everyone else wants? I still stand by my thoughts that "God" doesn't mean Christianity. All the big three believe in Abraham's role and his monotheistic god. There've been numerous articles on this including a big one by Time quite a while ago. However, Islam breaks shortly after the Abrahamic era.
Cameron, I think that sometimes it's very difficult to decide between the needs/wants of the majority and the needs/wants of the minority. Very often, it's down to rights and whether or not the rights are protected in the Constitution. Constitutional interpretation also plays a big role. So I can understand where you're coming from. And I also agree that the needs/wants of minorities can been given too much weight, especially as they pertains to judicial decisions.
As Jan pointed out, our government is specifically organized to protect minorities from the majority. That's the way it's supposed to work, much to the occasional consternation of the majority. A lot of this reasoning was laid out by James Madison in the Federalist Papers #51.Also, the statement that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God is only true in a limited sense. I think it's pretty well understood, at least among those who have taken at least a cursory study of all three religions, that the mythologies have a common beginning. However, the actual conception that the three groups have of their respective deities differs enough that they are not in any practical sense the same being.That said, the term 'God' is generic enough that it could easily refer to all three, or indeed to any monotheistic deity. This still leaves poly- or non-theists out in the cold, though. The fact that they are a small minority here is irrelevant when dealing with constitutional rights. ALL citizens have the same constitutional rights, regardless of how many people belong to their group.The issue is not whether the group of people in question is large enough, but whether their rights are truly being infringed.
>The issue is not whether the group of people in question is large enough, but whether their rights are truly being infringed.Exactly. This is why purpose is the issue in this debate. It doesn't matter that there are only a few atheists or polytheists. The reason the phrase was added was to push them towards monotheism. It is an endorsement by the government of one religious type over others, which is as good as establishing a national religion. That is strictly prohibited in the first amendment.
I don't know of schools that require kids to recite the pledge. There were a couple of instances, at least, in my school years where kids did not. It may be required somewhere that will change, I'm sure, if it is. I don't think anyone should be forced to say it but not because of the God thing. There are religions, even Christian ones, who believe it is a sin to pledge an oath to anything or anyone but God. They and anyone else should have the freedom not to participate.It is not forcing any religion on someone because the pledge of allegiance is to the flag and the republic, for which it stands. The jackass who brought the case (and I don't call him a jackass because he's an atheist - he's a jackass because I've seen him in interviews and he's an obnoxious, rude, one-note idiot) has said in interviews that his goal is to tackle any instance of the word God involving the govt, including our currency. There are many in our country who do not believe this country promotes "liberty and justice for all"... why aren't they lining up to sue?
I know the phrase was added during the cold war to endorse 'God' over the Soviet's official acceptance of atheism. This is perhaps the strongest argument for removing th phrase from the pledge. However, I believe the phrase can mean more than just endorsing some monotheistic god. Perhaps all that should change is big-G-God to small-g-god. This would still acknowledge that this nation is under god and that we endorse a belief in something. Small-g-god can refer to pretty much anything. In Zen it is "the way that cannot be named". We don't say one nation under (Yaweh, Jehova, Alah, Ra, Athena). We say under God. God is often taken in my opinion to be whatever you choose of this.
>>That said, the term 'God' is generic enough that it could easily refer to all three, or indeed to any monotheistic deity.That's what I was trying to infer. However, Jan has also made it pretty clear that anypush towards a particular type of religious belief is wrong.Renee, you are right that no one is forced to recite it, except through peer pressure. The spiritual side of me likes the change, but I reluctantly have to say that a government sponsored recital of patriotism shouldn't try to enforce a type of religion.
Renee, you said that "There are many in our country who do not believe this country promotes "liberty and justice for all"... why aren't they lining up to sue?"Because the Constitution promises liberty and justice, though perhaps not exactly in those words. [But it also promises to never establish a national religion, too.] I guess they could sue, but they wouldn't get very far in the system.Cameron, you're right about peer pressure. There may no longer be any schools that force kids to say the pledge, but I can tell you from my experiences in a backwoods Alabaman grade school (where we were not forced to say the pledge), that a kid who didn't say the pledge would have been teased at the very least, and likely would have been beaten black and blue. Certainly they would have been ostracized.Charles, you may take God to mean whatever deity a person chooses. But what about the people who don't believe in a deity at all? What about the people who do use a different name for thier diety and who find the word "God" itself to be a Christian/Judaic word for a deity they find offensive? I have to say honestly, that I would have a hard time saying "under Allah" even though I believe "God" and "Allah" to be the same.
>but I reluctantly have to say that a government sponsored recital of patriotism shouldn't try to enforce a type of religion.Cameron,Should the government enforce patriotism? That, to me, is a far, far bigger issue than that of sticking the word "God" in there. Furthermore, does the government mandate schools to recite the pledge? I don't think so but I don't know for sure. I think it's at the school's discretion and pretty much just tradition.The pledge itself is a bigger threat to the constitution (if a threat exists at all) than the "under God" thing. People in this country are free to hate this very country. Asking them to recite a pledge of allegiance is a greater attack on freedom than a side note contained therein. And isn't freedom the most basic right we have? I think it trumps pretty much all others.
The plaintiff, Mr. Newdow has responded to the whole thing in this Op-Ed piece.I'm not sure what to make of it -- there's a bit too much legal speak (as opposed to nicely flowing English) and it doesn't seem to me that he resolves the fact that he doesn't have custodial rights. He wants to argue that he's her parent, but the legal aspects of actually gaining custody is another matter that he needs to pursue.