[Vision2020] One Should Have Right To Object To 'Under God'

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sat Sep 9 10:11:41 PDT 2006

>From today's (September 9, 2006) Spokesman Review -


One should have right to object to 'under God' 
Donald Clegg 
The Spokesman-Review
September 9, 2006

The ongoing debate over the Pledge of Allegiance has taken another turn.

In case you missed it, on July 19 the U.S. House of Representatives passed
legislation to protect the pledge "from federal judges who might try to stop
schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase 'under
God.' "

That includes those activist judges from the Supreme Court, naturally.
Though the legislation faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, 260 cowards in
the House voted to keep the pledge debate from the high court, where it was
likely headed.
To recap recent history, the Supreme Court tossed atheist Michael Newdow's
first case (seeking to strike the words "under God") on a technicality. He
brought a new case to a lower court and won again.

It might be worth taking a closer look at the pledge itself in order to
understand just how much - and why - it's changed over the years, including
the addition of those two little words.

It was written by Francis Bellamy and published in 1892 (the 400th
anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World) as part of Columbus Day
celebrations in schools across the country. This is how it first appeared:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one
Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

You can see that the original is considerably different from its current
form; "the flag of the United States" was added in 1923, and "of America" in
1924. It wasn't until 1954 that "under God" was appended after "one nation,"
for reasons to which we should attend - as the motivation wasn't what you
might think.

The nasty old days of McCarthyism and the Red Scare inspired the change.
"Under God" was added in direct response to "godless Communism," with
Congress essentially ignoring the Constitution's regard for protection of
all religious views.

Congress wrote: "The inclusion of God .would serve to deny the atheistic and
materialistic concepts of Communism. ..." In short, religious tolerance was
a victim of political pressure.

You might well be asking whether this is a big deal or not. I hope you'll
think back to the blacklists and purges of McCarthyism and compare them to
today's "loyalty pledges," "free speech zones" and incarceration without
representation - or even charges being brought.

In these Patriot Act days, I think we'd be well-advised to consider what
real free speech means, how quickly it can be lost, and the possibility that
"under God" comes to mean "not under your God." 

If you're of the Christian persuasion, you might be thinking, "Not a problem
- I'm covered." But if you're of the unlikely mind that there isn't a
difference in the perception and meaning of God among Christians, never mind
people of other faiths, just consider your reaction to the bumper sticker:
"Who would Jesus bomb?" 

I take atheism as a type of religion, in the general sense, given that a
lack of belief in a god or gods is, nonetheless, a belief regarding the role
of the divine in the universe. So the idea of an atheist defending religious
freedom shouldn't be considered out of the ordinary or hypocritical.

And it's entirely in the spirit of protecting First Amendment rights. I
don't think it's an attack on Christianity to seek to remove "under God,"
but a simple separation of church and state, which still seems an eminently
sensible idea to me.

It might be good to haul out the old Constitution and Bill of Rights, as
I've done recently. Although its flaws - denial of full personhood for
blacks, for one - led, for instance, to the Civil War, our founding document
did an amazing job, for the time, of creating and establishing protections
for the freedom of people to believe and say pretty much anything they darn
well please. 

I think this freedom extends not only to objecting to those two little
controversial words in the pledge, but also whether or not to say the pledge
at all.

One final thought: "I pledge allegiance to the flag ..." Not that I have a
horse in this race, but as I understand it, isn't that idolatry?


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Vandalville, Idaho


"People walking up to you
Singing glory hallelujah
And they're trying to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord."

- Joe South (from "Games People Play")

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