Saturday, November 13, 2010

co: On objecting to the Pledge of Allegiance in America

Kollapsnik at Club Orlov reminded us about November 7,the anniversary of the Stalin revolt in Russia that ended the sovereignty of the Czars, and rang in Communist rule.

One of the comments brought out a recent event, where a school student refused the class pledge of allegiance to the US and the flag - and the coach physically and verbally abused the student, attempting to twist the young person's arm into the expected hand-over-heart position.

I can see how someone might disagree with the boy's point of view and manner of protest but if this is supposed to be a free country, what is the point of trying to force him?

Another comment went on to object to the pledge itself.

. . Furthermore it's unconstitutional, as it includes a reference to "God," whereas the Constitution explicitly states that Congress shall pass no law respecting religion. The Pledge of Allegiance was rammed through during the 1950s and has no legitimate association with the Fourth of July, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence. Moreover that kind of compulsory group behavior is a violation of the spirit of all those things, in my opinion. So I'm against it.

For 15 years or so after WWII, the US faced an active threat from Russia, from infiltrating and local communist agents and activists, many with known membership in a Communist Party. The threat intended to escalate into an American version of the 1917 revolution where the Russian government was overthrown by Communist rebels against their government. Senator Joe McCarthy won a deservedly (in my opinion) tyrannical and corrupt reputation by riding that very real threat into a cartoonish reign of terror on Americans.

Part of the response to that threat from within and without, with anti-American activities being funded by Russia and other fronts, was the pledge of allegiance.

Most American Communists at that time were passionate and determined enough to openly despise the US Constitution and it's Constitutional form of government - they refused the pledge. So the pledge was seen as a test for citizenship, a public demonstration that community and leaders were indeed engaged in legitimate discourse and governance under local, state, and federal laws.

I think the flag was chosen as the symbol of adherence to the Constitution, because the battle flag has always been an important icon for the uniformed services. The flag plays the military role of identifying leadership, authority, and a visible reassurance that our side is still engaged, still battling or carrying on. The US grew from the Revolution and leaders recently experienced in that military conflict. In post-WWII America, millions of citizens had just recently been released from military service. The US flag was, and is, a powerful emblem and symbol of the nation, national leadership, and here in America, the Constitution that many public leaders and all military enlistees are required to swear an oath to defend, from enemies foreign and domestic. The flag as a symbol is a remembrance, and a reminder, that America was won on the battlefield, partly, and owes it’s continued existence, in part, to readiness to defend against armed aggression.

Anyone should be permitted to choose to refuse the pledge of allegiance; it should have to be a deliberate and sincerely considered refusal. Refusing the pledge should carry the consequences understood when the pledge was first imposed. No one that can conscientiously object to the pledge of allegiance should be allowed any position of civil, legal, military, or other civic responsibility or authority.

One of the basic strengths of America is adherence to the Constitution. From the President of the United States, to the gentlepeople collecting garbage for the city, every single person should be engaged in their assigned duties in a manner that defends and protects the Constitution of the United States.

Quarrels with individual laws aside from the Constitution, or with words, positions, or actions of any public office holder, are all legitimate defenses of the Constitution, and are part of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of each citizen of the United States. The onus to consider and choose what to support and what to oppose does not extend, in my opinion, to the US Constitution, the flag, or even to the pledge of allegiance.

Today the issue of Sharia law is a direct challenge to the Constitution in federal and state courts. Sharia law is to the Muslim, what the Ten Commandments are to Christian and Jewish faithful. They contradict the rights and responsibilities of citizens under the Constitution. Muslim beliefs of religious teachings superseding secular laws violate the Constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state. Harsh mutilation and stoning requirements under Sharia law violate freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Death to Islam non-believers violates guarantees against discrimination based on faith.

There are those that refuse the pledge of allegiance on the grounds that the pledge represents a secular kind of 'belief', almost a religious faith.

Those that do not believe that the Constitution is or should be the basis for laws common to all Americans must and should be tolerated. But the Constitution requires that leadership and laws and governing bodies adhere strictly to the Constitution, to not compromise the guarantees of citizenship, nor to exceed the limits imposed by the Constitution on governance in America.

Thus, I see the pledge as a check and a privilege of Constitutional citizenship, and a bare requirement for leadership and authority.

As to "God" in the pledge, the Constitution mandates separation of church and state, and adheres quite closely to actual faith in a divine Creator. Faith and church are two very different entities. Faith is a description of beliefs and truths that an individual incorporates in relating to that individual's concepts of divinity and that individual's relationship to that divinity.

Church, and other forms of organized religion, is an organization of people, often bound to each other by common faiths and beliefs. The US Constitution establishes that no church of any faith may over-rule the US Government, nor may they interfere with the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from the Constitution or Federal, state, or local laws. The Constitution also, importantly, protects citizens from churches and faiths, and actions by churches and faithful, that contradict the rights, protections, and responsibilities of secular (non-faith based) laws and regulations.

The Constitution prohibits the government from allowing or acting from a basis of faith or church. Individuals, including office holders, are expected to act within their own faith and beliefs, as long as those actions adhere to the protections and limits of the Constitution and subsequent laws.

That is, the Constitution both establishes the creation of our nation within the belief in God (an amorphous expression of Judeo-Christian faith), and protects the individual's right and responsibility to believe and worship as their conscience dictates. The limits on church and faith protect the rights of each and every American to believe as they understand their relationship to God and divinity.

At least, that is how I feel about it.


  1. The government's inscription of the phrase "In God we trust" on coins and currency, as well as its addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase "In God we trust" as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be corrected. Under our Constitution, the government has no business proclaiming that "we trust" "In God." Some of us do, and some of us don't; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard. Nor does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country. The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds, and it certainly has no business assembling citizens' children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge--affirmation of a god and all--as a daily routine.

  2. Tsk. The Pledge of Allegiance was written (sans "under God") in 1892 by Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy. He wanted to foster a sense of nationalism in young people.

    Irony, anyone?