Last updated in 1954, the Pledge of
Allegiance currently reads, “I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America and to the Republic, for which it
stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and
justice for all.”

Janna Hutz

Schoolchildren across the country still begin each day by
reciting the pledge. Chances are, the majority of them have no idea
what the hell half the words of the pledge mean, but they still say
it. It means nothing to them. It’s an empty gesture
perpetuated by the George Bushes and Pat Robertsons of the world
who are looking to score points with the Man upstairs.

For the last half century, the pledge went largely unchallenged.
That was until California atheist Michael Newdow brought a suit
against the Sacramento County school district alleging that the
recitation of the pledge violated the constitutional separation of
church and state and the civil liberties of his nine-year-old
daughter.

When the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco
ruled that reciting the words “under God” in public
schools was in fact an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,
shockwaves were sent across the country. Commoners and lawmakers
alike were outraged. The U.S. Senate immediately passed a
resolution 99-0 in support of the Pledge. Then Sen. Jesse Helms
(R-N.C.) was unable to vote at the time because he was recovering
from heart surgery, but it’s fairly safe to assume that he
would have sided with the majority.

As it was announced last week, the issue will be resolved
sometime next year, when the Pledge of Allegiance case will be
heard by the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality
of the words “under God.”

Never has a case meant so much and so little at the same time.
The case cuts to the heart of the never-ending battle between
theists and atheists; the pledge serves as another rope in their
perpetual tug of war. As far as the theists are concerned, our
nation’s very salvation is at stake. For the atheists, our
civil liberties are in the balance. Either we’ll all go
straight to hell or we’ll be subject to an intolerably
oppressive government.

Practically speaking, however, regardless of the outcome,
nothing will really have been accomplished when all is said and
done. If the words “under God” are found to be
constitutional, children will go on obliviously chanting them every
morning. If they are ruled unconstitutional, children will be
confused for a short time until they can relearn the pledge in its
“God”-free form, which they will then begin obliviously
chanting every morning.

But for pure amusement, let’s settle the subject
anyway.

Approaching the issue rationally, the use of the words
“under God” is entirely unconstitutional. The First
Amendment states explicitly, “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion.” The
government-initiated acknowledgement of a deity, especially the
specific acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian implicit in the
capital “G” in “God,” most definitely
respects an establishment of religion.

Logically speaking, the issue is cut-and-dry, but the prevailing
approach of today’s lawmakers is to assume a universal belief
in God and legislate accordingly. As perhaps the best example of
this mentality, moments after the 9th Circuit court issued its
ruling, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was quoted as saying,
“Obviously, the liberal court in San Francisco has gotten
this one wrong. Of course, we are one nation, under God.”
Using words and phrases such as “obviously” and
“of course” in such a context shows just how justified
lawmakers feel in imposing religion on the masses.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will examine the subject
judiciously, but as with any issue of religion and government,
impracticality in the form of emotionalism inevitably enters the
mix. In the back of the justices’ minds, the fear of
upsetting the estimated 95 percent of the population —
including one president and hundreds of congressmen and
congresswomen — who believe in a divine being will weigh
heavily on their minds. Sad, but true. Let us hope they can
overcome.

And so, I would like to close with a prayer:

Dear God, please allow the Supreme Court justices hearing this
case to examine the issue fairly and practically, and see that they
will find it in their hearts to remove the heinous mentioning of
You from our Pledge of Allegiance. Oh, and while You’re at
it, can You do something about the whole “In God We
Trust”-currency thing, as well? Thank you, and amen.

Hoard can be reached at
“mailto:j.ho@umich.edu”>j.ho@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *