The “under God” Pledge
and the Law – 2004
The theocrats muddy the issues by claiming that the Ninth Circuit Court ruling begrudges the school children the right to pledge allegiance to the flag. They are plane wrong! It begrudges the schools the right to use a pledge containing the words "under God", because it turns the pledge into a ritual of religious supplication. Remove the offending words and the constitutional issue is resolved.
They go on to claim that if God were removed from the pledge, then it would become strictly atheistic and thus in contravention of their religious liberties. This is just more right wing flatulence. Only if the words were replaced with something like "under no god" or "under atheism", would they have a case. With the "under God" phrase removed, the pledge would once again be a pure statement of US nationalism, neutral towards matters of religion and deity, either pro or con. That's called protecting religious equality and liberty in legitimate conformance to the intent of the First Amendment free exercise clause!
If racial equality is a legitimate civil rights issue, then so is religious equality. This means equality among differing beliefs concerning matters of divinity and religious faith. Exclusive endorsement of the root deity of biblical religion does not produce government protected civil equality between the biblically faithful versus those who embrace other religions and deities, or who do not subscribe to any deity or religious ideology at all. Just because the pledge doesn’t single out any specific biblical sect, doesn’t excuse it from being an explicit endorsement of that religion.
EFELDF appeal went on to claim that free speech rights would be infringed
by removing the “under God” phrase.
Some people have their wires severely crossed about what “free
speech” really means. Free
speech is about what an individual chooses to say, or not say, on the
basis of their own recognizance. It is not about what they say as a
consequence of government coerced collective oath taking.
An excerpt from the EFELDF appeal tends to sum up the theocratic
interpretation of such things.
in the Fourteenth or First Amendments censors voluntary speech like the
Pledge. The Fourteenth
Amendment exists to promote, not impede, freedom.
When rights are incorporated against the States through the
Fourteenth Amendment they should advance, not constrain, individual
liberty…neither its history nor it text supports infringement on the
liberty of students in voluntarily reciting the pledge.
‘There would be a tragic irony in converting the Fourteenth
Amendment’s guarantee of individual liberty into a prohibition on the
exercise of educational choice.’”
The problem is that the EFELDF appeal never actually explained how the presence of “under God” in the pledge protects either free speech rights or educational choice. The discrepancy is particularly apparent for those who do not believe in any deity or who don’t believe in the notion of a single omnipotent supernatural intelligence, or don’t believe that God is that intelligence. Considering the literal import of the Sixth Article and First Amendment, it is pure gall to think that belief in a deity called God should take precedent. They expect us to believe that the free speech rights are equally protected because no one is obligated to take the “under God” pledge. If such reasoning were valid, then the rights of the God worshipers would be equally as well protected if the phrase were changed to "under Allah", "under Zeus", "under all Gods" or "under no God". In such case, the God worshipers would then be the ones that are ”free” to abstain in respectful silence or hit the door. Without an official pledge devoid of reference to deity, popular or otherwise, any pretense to government neutrality and thus equality and freedom of choice about matters of faith is little more then a cruel joke! For these reasons the “under God” pledge must not be allowed to stand. Removing the words would not endanger anyone’s license to believe in God or any other deity. It would simply mean that the each person’s willingness to believe in or give expression to such things would have to stand without the public school system and the wording of the Nation’s core ceremony of nationalism being used as a crutch to prop it up.
said this, a critical matter of nationalism still exists that should not
be cast aside. Where true patriotism is involved, allegiance to this
Nation and its sacred Constitution should not be considered an option.
To echo J B Raskin (Reference 39) and others, if the “under”
part of the pledge were retained, then it should properly read “under
the Constitution”. Undoubtedly, coercion to take the Pledge
would remain, even with the offending “under God” phraseology removed. However, the nagging issues of government endorsed religious
discrimination and religious test would no longer be corrupting the
situation. The theocrats
don’t want the focus of allegiance to be on the Constitution as the
Nations supreme body of law. They want that status of allegiance to be the
exclusive privy of their archaic biblical doctrine, all in the name of
patriotism and national identity as defined and “interpreted” by the
One of the more divisive arms of the EFELDF appeal is the implication that anything some prominent public figure might have said or wrote as a personal expression of religious sentiment, should thereafter become part of the official “doctrine” of state. From this point of view, if some reference to God can be found embedded in the transcripts of some political speech or somewhere carved in stone on government ground, then the mere presence of the words give them status transcendent of the Constitution itself. For example, the Legal Defense Fund appeal claims that the origin of the “under God” phrase can be traced back to President Lincoln and his renowned Gettysburg Address. The implicated paragraph is now etched in stone at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The Legal Defense Fund appeal goes on to say:
“If schoolchildren may not recite “under God,” then should not the phrase also be sanded away from the granite walls of the federal monument? Just as Congress inserted the phrase into the pledge, Lincoln later added “under God” to the prepared text of his remarks at Gettysburg. Removing the phrase from the Pledge implies that the words should also be expunged from the federally funded Lincoln Memorial, illustrating the folly.”
the flawed reasoning that the passage above is built upon.
First, consistent with his First Amendment right of free speech,
Lincoln would have included the phrase as a personal act of literary free
will. Second, it was simply a
speech employed for a dedication ceremony, not a binding government
statute. Political speeches do not make some theistic phrase
therein contained an obligatory article of belief for everyone
thereafter. Consequently, there never was acceptable justification
for having it later endorsed in government statute as a mandated religious
ideology. Congress does not
have the right to formulate statutes that defy the Sixth Article and First
Amendment! Third, no
government mandated ritual imaginable would ever require all public
school classes to take a daily pilgrimage to the Lincoln Memorial, nor
does any exist that requires daily group recitation of the words written
on it. There is a long difference
between something that is individually read or recited a handful of times
during one's mandatory school years versus the indoctrinating impact of a
ritual performed every day of the school year. The two
are definitely not equal. One
represents the sentiments of an historical notable which were supposedly
spoken at a memorial dedication ceremony.
Whereas, the other represents a blatant exploitation of a unique
occurrence within his writings to force our core ceremony of
nationalism into conformance with the agenda of biblical theocracy.
If historic ideological precedent is to be claimed, then pursuant to the
Declaration of Independence, it more properly belongs to Lincoln's opening
phrase, "a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal."
Here again are those liberty and equality things, the Nation's true
fundamental ideals (source,
Here again are those liberty and equality things, the Nation's true fundamental ideals (source, Reference 40).
The imposition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, changed the pledge into a pervasive mantra for biblical monotheism. It thereby made the pledge servant to a retrograde theocratic agenda that has not changed since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were first stood up as supreme law. Usurp the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, break down the wall of separation between government and religion, and turn America into a biblical theocracy supported and enforced by theocracy's political and civil henchmen. In spite of the extreme pressures being exerted by the religious right, the courts must rise to the task and turn back the tide of religiously preferential and thus anti-constitutional legislation. Striking down the “under God” pledge is an essential and decisive act in that process. In turn, the American public must wake up to the unconscionable selling out that is going on in both major political parties and bring it to a stop. The theocrats claim that the "under God" pledge has served to unite the nation. To the contrary, it has served the invidious purpose of dividing the nation against its own sovereign Constitution (Reference 41).
See Reference 42 for an update on the legal arguments in the case as they were presented to Supreme Court for review.
E Pluribus Unum