‘Under God’ in the Pledge
Re “Controversial Ruling on Pledge Reaffirmed,” March 1: Both Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Eugene Volokh, a constitutional scholar at UCLA, were quoted in reference to the court decision that will remove “under God” in the school pledge. O’Scannlain said it “contradicts our 200-year history and tradition of patriotic references to God,” and Volokh that it “ignores 200 years of American tradition of acknowledgment of God in patriotic ceremonies.”
Perhaps these gentlemen are following the American tradition of ignoring history. The pledge was composed in 1892 without the words “under God.” The federal law adding “under God” in 1954 to distinguish us from “godless communists” is a relic of McCarthyism. I agree with the American tradition that respects religion as a private matter and would gladly respect “200 years of American tradition” and return to the original pledge without “under God.”
Do you feel more secure now that Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, after learning of the 9th Circuit’s ruling that “under God” must come out of the Pledge of Allegiance, declared that “the Justice Department will spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag”? Scares the heck out of me that he doesn’t recognize the pledge unless “under God” is in it.
For the first 25 years of my life, the pledge I recited in school and elsewhere made no religious reference, excluded no one, included all. The insertion, in 1954, of “under God” suddenly made the pledge offensive to some and divided the whole lot of us between those who want God in the pledge and those who want to preserve the separation of church and state. May God bless the separation.
It saddens me that certain individuals who claim American citizenship would stoop so low. I believe reciting the words “under God” with pride is a patriotic privilege for all Americans. The face of our currency bears the words “In God We Trust.” I have yet to see anyone protesting the use of dollars and cents because of those great words. It is honorable to address significant issues, but to dissent on issues that are sacred to the foundations of our great nation is borderline treason.
For us children of the ‘50s, it is a test of our memories to take ourselves back to the first day we were taught to insert the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. If I have my history correct, the original pledge was changed to include “under God” by an act of Congress in a political environment not so different than that of today. Now, 50 years later, with a legal challenge to remove those words from the pledge proceeding to the highest court, the mass media and bully-boy politicians would lead us to believe that taking these words out of our pledge would be interpreted as a failure of our democratic family values.
In this era of renewed fears and depression, it is not surprising that many would turn to religion and God as a refuge from an uncertain and doubtful future. It is one of the miracles of our nation’s founding that the highest law in the land protects our individual right to believe and to not believe in a superior being that is above the law and to practice freely the religion of our choice. Perhaps now more than ever it is helpful to recall that it is the third branch of our government, the court of law, that is our last hope to protect our most important and fundamental freedoms and rights, including protection from the tyranny of the majority. For those who believe in God, let us pray that the Supreme Court will show the true courage and patriotism that can make us all proud of our most important traditions. God help us if it fails.
I suggest schools have students recite the 1st Amendment each morning rather than the Pledge of Allegiance. A generation reciting the freedoms we embrace will understand that criticizing the government, publishing truth rather than propaganda and preventing government from forcing religion onto children are some of the characteristics of patriotic Americans.