CNN article on Recent Court Ruling Banning Pledge of Allegiance

Here is a bit of breaking news that I am particularly happy about. It also happens to be a REALLY touchy subject. To me it seems fairly cut and dried but when you mix in peoples nationalistic feelings it gets muddy. When you mix in the recent need for the religious right to wedge their way into politics you get an even stickier situation.

The "Under God" section was included in the pledge with a piece of legislation passed in 1954 which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The original pledge was written by a Socialist Baptist preacher named Francis Bellamy. (Wait...yes Pat Robertson...he was a socialist. Must have snuck in from Venezuela, damn them all to hell!)

Bellamy, like any good socialist, didn't like that his original pledge had just "flag" replaced with "Flag of the United States of America" I can't imagine he would have liked the idea of adding God to the picture if he didn't even want to add the name of the country. But that really is beside the point. A good history of the pledge is here.

The problem for me is that when I say the pledge I always want to add Amen to the end. I've seen others actually do it and others catch themselves. To me that says prayer, and not only that, Christian prayer. But the first amendment is pretty clear in saying that the government can't legislate or establish one certain religion.

This web site has an interesting take on the issue from a religious tolerance perspective. Basically, would you want to sit in class and say "One nation, without God.", or "One nation under Rama.", "One nation under the Godess.". By using the term God the pledge really is narrowing down the list of possible dieties to a male, monotheistic, and active in the world God. Well, that kindof leaves only three religions that it could be and Chirtianity happens to be by far the dominant one of these in the US. So it's hard to make a point that "Under God" is really inclusive.

It really is a mystery to me how the US motto and the Under God section of the pledge got through the Congress and have stood as long as they have in the courts. I agree that most of our common law and history revolves around Christian history and values, but these same values are shared by nearly every religion of the world.

Those who say that the US is Christian in it's history and thus should profess our religous heritage through our laws are trying to slip one in under the radar. The Constitution was made such that all faiths were free to believe and worship but the state is unable to establish laws which establish a religion. By inserting "Under God" it is pretty clear that they didn't mean just any God but the Christian one. It was the Knights of Columbus for Gods sake. Who really thinks they were trying to make a point about Allah not being represented in our daily patriotic discourse. And further, by including a God they cut out the Buddists and Atheists who don't recognize a supreme God or a God at all, which is a disenfranchisement no matter what you think of Buddists and Athiests.

The intent of the seperation of Church and State was to make it possible for people to get along in the public sphere without having their religion get in the way. Look at how Iraq is doing on that front right now. Not so hot. Well, after the Revolutionary war there were an awful lot of competing ideaologies, Quaker, Unitarian, Baptist, Lutheran...etc. They all had had feuds in the Old Country and had been sent or fled here. Even then they settled apart from each other like oil and water and the different states and regions were as different religiously and socially when the Contitution was framed as ever. In fact in many ways you can still see the differences as you travel the East Coast. They were alot like Sunni and Shiite groups are in Iraq. They believed in the same God but had radically different social views. Luckily we were able to put those religious views aside and make a solid nation.

The more we add specific religious language to our laws and motto's and pledges the more people within our country we offend. It infringes on peoples right to believe freely in thier respective religion when they are forced to say the pledge or leave the room. It singles people out and singling out is the first step to ridicule, which can eventually lead to genocide, civil war and holocaust. I'm not saying we're on that slippery slope but the slope is there and I'd rather not get close to it. We're a stronger nation when we embrace everyone we have instead of making those who are not in the majority feel that they are not welcome. Even if that unwelcome feeling only lasts for 30 seconds before class begins.