I Pledge Allegiance....

by Daniel Kay | 7/2/02 5:00am

I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all." This is the Pledge of Allegiance in its intended form, as written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. Recently Americans across the country have created an uproar about the 9thU.S Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that the phrase "under God" in the current incarnation of the Pledge is unconstitutional. Even the U.S. Senate, in a more spineless move than anticipated, voted 99-0 (Jesse Helms was ill, gee I wonder how he would have voted?) to affirm the words "under God" as part of the Pledge.

If you put all these Senators in a room, they could argue for days over whether the walls were painted ecru or eggshell, yet they seemed pretty certain in the validity of "under God." What would really have been nice was if one senator, just one, would have stood up and spoke the truth instead of caving to the political pressure of the times: the words "under God" violate the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. That is, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

I believe that patriotism is a great thing, and one of the finer qualities of our people. However, recently people have become so fearful of being called unpatriotic, particularly our elected officials, that they have forgotten their duty to uphold the constitution. Many on Capitol Hill were calling this decision "nuts" and "ridiculous," while California Governor Gray Davis had his own brilliant insight on the ruling: "This decision was wrongheaded and it should not be allowed to stand, with troops overseas, this is the wrong decision at the worst possible time." Yes, this ruling is a disaster, will our country be able to stand, or will it be torn apart by children not being able to say "under God" while pledging? Tune in next week, as apparently anything can happen now that the Constitution magically changes its wording when U.S. troops are overseas.

This decision clearly does not advocate the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, as all these pundits, politicians and anyone with a subjective mind has been shouting from the hilltops in the past few days. What it says is that when Congress in 1954, fearful of "godless communists" and at the prodding of religious leaders, decided to butcher the meter and meaning of the original pledge by adding the words "under God," they were in fact making a law respecting an establishment of religion. True, the word "God" does not refer to any person's God in particular, but as I'm sure you all realize, simply saying that there is a God alienates atheists or anyone who believes in more than one God.

In fact, the wording of the Pledge has been altered several times in its history to suit the prevailing political winds. In 1924, fearful of an influx of immigrants that people saw as resistant to assimilation, the words "my flag" were changed to "the flag of the United States of America." Many documents have been altered over time, most in a positive way to keep up with the times. However, the 1954 change was a nice unconstitutional step in the wrong direction. Finally, after 48 years, someone had the guts to challenge the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, and what does he get? Death threats, toward him and his second grade daughter. Perhaps NASCAR or Jerry Springer or whatever else distracts and numbs the minds of people who would render such threats wasn't on TV this week, and the plaintiff (Dr. Michael Newdow) caught a bit of bad luck.

Unfortunately I think it symptomatic of something much worse. I feel that we're scared, scared to see the last vestiges of state sponsored religion, and with it what some feel to be "old time" America, fall to the wayside. Well guess what, this pledge is just something that McCarthyists who got bored of blacklisting people created. You want real America? How about you stand up for what is right, what James Madison intended when he wrote the Bill of Rights, what is imbued in the original pledge, and take religion out of public schools and the rest of government?

Just because most of the people in power, and for that matter most of the country do believe in God, does that give us the right to dance around the 1st Amendment? That's not what democracy means; we have laws for a reason. If a majority of the country wanted to burn an innocent person at the stake, they can't do that, and if that same majority wants to jam religion down people's throats in a public setting, they can't do that either. Laws don't restrict my freedoms, what they do is protect my freedoms from those who would impose their own beliefs upon me. The constitution is really a wonderful thing, almost as wonderful as the country it protects. It is time that we stand up for it and for ourselves and not let those who would use demagoguery and fear abuse it.