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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

June 25, 2004
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In 1924, that's where we stood with the Pledge.

It wasn't all wine and roses, though. Plenty of people had a problem with the increasing tendency to require recitation of a pledge of allegiance.

In 1940, the first religious conflict over this practice took place. Two children from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses were expelled from a Pennsylvania public school for refusing to participate in the daily salute to the Flag. They maintained that such activities were prohibited by their religion, and the case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court.

Eventually the Supreme Court decided that protecting the religious freedom of people other than mainstream 'Christians' wasn't important and they decided it was okay to expel the students.

In 1954, Congress ignored the requirements of the constitution and shoved "god" into the Pledge to affirm that this country wasn't inhabited by 'godless' communists.

In 1955 that the law was changed to require "in god we trust" to be displayed on all of the country's money.

In 1956, they made the same phrase our "country motto."

I think it's about time we rid ourselves of these remnants of the hateful and hate-full McCarthy era. Too many people in this country are forgetting that these symbols of some of the population's beliefs were foisted upon us by reactionary, hate-mongering, fear-filled bigots.

About June 26, 2002.

On June 26, 2002, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Newdow vs. U.S. Congress that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The 2-1 ruling sparked immediate reaction from many corners. President Bush, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other leading politicians criticized the court's ruling. The Senate voted 99-0 and the House of Representatives voted 416-3 to reaffirm the words "under God" in the Pledge. The American Center for Law and Justice criticized the Ninth Circuit's ruling as flawed while the American Civil Liberties Union praised the decision as "consistent with recent Supreme Court rulings invalidating prayer at school events."

The Elk Grove School District and the United States petitioned for rehearing of the case by the three-judge panel and by the full Ninth Circuit. On February 28, 2003, the court amended its earlier ruling and announced that neither the panel nor the full Ninth Circuit would rehear the case. The amended opinion affirmed the earlier ruling that the school district's policy of teacher-led recitation of the Pledge with the inclusion of the words "under God" was unconstitutional, but it pulled back from its earlier conclusion that the 1954 Act adding the words "under God" to the Pledge was unconstitutional. The ruling was subsequently stayed, allowing schools in Western states to continue public recitations of the Pledge. Petitions for writ of certiorari were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the school district's Pledge policy on October 14.


U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen and Elk Grove School District Attorney Terence J. Cassidy defended the teacher-led recitation of the current Pledge of Allegiance on behalf of the Elk Grove school district. Mr. Olsen characterized the phrase "under God" as "descriptive" and "ceremonial" rather than a prayer or "religious invocation."

I like that last bit. "Yeah, we're making everyone say it, but it doesn't really mean anything, so it's okay. That rather fits my perception of the hypocrisy of many of the 'Christians' I've known.

On June 14, 2004, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Pledge of Allegiance case, Elk Grove v. Newdow, No. 02-1624. The Court reversed an earlier ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge, when it contained the words "under God," was unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that Michael Newdow, the California atheist who brought suit on behalf of his daughter, lacked standing to sue because the child's mother, Sandra Banning, has "what amounts to a tie-breaking vote" on issues related to the child's education.

Three justices, William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas, concurred in the judgment reversing the Ninth Circuit. They did so, however, on the grounds that Newdow did have standing to sue but that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge did not violate the First Amendment.

Well, it's probably no surprise that I disagree with the last three. I think that forcing people to recite pledges affirming this country's subordination to an imaginary deity is and should be unconstitutional.

People shouldn't be allowed to foist their personal superstitions off on others at all, much less institutionalize them.

I'm a bit uncomfortable posting this. Recently I've found myself doing a bit of self-censoring of my opinion of organized religion. I don't actually want to offend anyone, no matter how obsolete and useless I think their belief system is. (Well, that was pretty offensive, wasn't it?)

(A lot of people who consider themselves "religious" wouldn't dream of using their personal beliefs to oppress and subjugate others and I know that. It's just that when I get to writing, it's always the other type of religious person that comes to mind.)

But my point remains. This country wasn't founded by people who wanted us all to be free to believe their way. It was founded by people who wanted freedom of belief and, by extension, that has to include both freedom not to believe and freedom not to have someone else's religious symbolism pushed down your throat.

I'm not pledging allegiance to this country or anything else "under god" because in my view (there is no such thing as "god") that negates the entire pledge, so if I recite the pledge, I'm just standing there babbling semantic nonsense.

If I want to "pledge some "allegiance" to this country, I'll do it in a way that isn't semantically null.

If I want to babble nonsense, I'm sure I can find a more entertaining topic to babble about.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:31 PM


Well said! My thoughts exactly!

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 26, 2004 12:26 AM

Thank you for writing this.

Posted by: Mighty Hunter at June 26, 2004 02:47 AM

When he was President, Teddy Roosevelt had "In God We Trust" removed from U.S. coins as sacrilegious mentioning some of the places that people spent money. Congress overruled him.

Like TR, I view this type of activity as contrary to "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain", or did when I was a member of the fold.

I would note that my Dutch and Palatine German ancestors came to this country to escape the religious wars so popular in Europe.

Study has led me to believe that religion is the cause of many of the world's worst periods of destruction.

Posted by: Bryan at June 26, 2004 08:41 PM

Wow, I didn't know that putting "In God We Trust" on the money was also a McCarthy-era thing! Thanks, Anne.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at July 5, 2004 03:01 PM