Friday, September 29, 2006

Do We Need Under God In The Pledge?

I was driving through rural Pa. last weekend. While I may be a high falut'n New York city-slicker now, I grew up in the corn fields, dairy farms and mountain forests of central Pennsylvania. My grandmother had been rushed to the hospital, and at age 91, all trips to the hospital are serious. I had spent the day visiting with her in the cardiac care center and was driving through the corn fields to the home I had grown up in and which my grandmother now resides.

On the radio came an ad that started off with a grandson talking to his grandfather, asking the grandfather what it was like when he was the boys age.

"Well, America was a different place back then. People cared about each other then." Said the grand pappy

"So, what changed?"

"Well," the grandfather responds, "they decided to take 'under god' out of the pledge of allegiance because it was unconstitutional. Then they took 'in God we trust' off of the dollar bill. Next thing you know, they made all open religion a criminal offense... that is why I am here in prison now."

A voice is heard in the background saying that visiting time is over and the grandson must leave. Then an announcer comes on and touts a petition to make it illegal for judges to declare under God unconstitutional because it will destroy our country.

I could not both laughing and feeling sad at the same time. How could the people who made this ad be so wrong on so many levels but feel they are so right? Could America really be destroyed by having the words under God removed from the pledge of allegiance?

To understand how wrong this concept is, you need to know the history of under God in our pledge. For some unknown reason, conservatives seems to think that under God was added by George Washington himself.

Well, it wasn't. The pledge was created in 1892 by a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy. In the original pledge, God was not mentioned. The country was a Republic. It was indivisible and had liberty and justice. But it was never under God, even though it was written by a Christian clergyman. Not only that, Francis deleted the word equality because he knew that it would not be accepted by educators since women and blacks were not considered to be equal at that time.

In 1940, the Supreme Court ruled that a school board could make it mandatory for children to recite the pledge even though some Christian religious groups found it against their religious and moral beliefs because it created idolatry in the flag. In 1943, the supreme court reversed its ruling, saying that requiring the recitation was state control of religion.

Still, there was no under God in the pledge.

The words under God were not in the pledge that my father learned as a school boy. It was not in the pledge that any of the heroes of WWI or WWII learned. It was added by President Eisenhower in 1954 during the height of the red scare. One of the rationale behind the addition of the under God words was because it was believed that no communist spy or sympathizer could bring themselves to recite the words, and thus, give themselves away as traitors to the United States. Seriously... someone actually believed this to be true. Similarly, in God we trust was not added to the dollar bill until 1959.

178 years had passed between the Declaration of Independence and the words under God appearing in any type of pledge. If the grandfather in the radio ad was right, America must have been a horrible, horrible place to live in those 178 years. No one cared about anyone. It was just masses of godless heathens muddling around the streets cursing at each other. It was not until 1954 that this country began to become a decent place to live. I obviously say this tongue in cheek, but what an insult that that radio ad is to all of those who came before us. What an insult it is the the hundreds of thousands of Americans who fought in WWII to free the world of tyranny but never recited under God once in the pledge of allegiance. Was the moral compass of what we deem to be the greatest generation inept due to the lack of public acknowledgement of God?

The radio ad also made me think of James Madison, the creator of the Bill of Rights. He was the person who enshrined our freedom of religion in the constitution so that the government could and would never interfere in the matters of personal faith. Madison in his Remonstrance of proposed legislation for Christian teachers to be paid for with public funds said:

Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion...for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

Basically what Madison is saying is that if God is real, than he does not need the support of the state. He exists because he exists and this is with or without the state and in fact, has endured direct opposition from countless governments before we existed. It, in fact, weakens the faith to need government support. If your faith in God is real, you must believe that he is bigger than the state and is in no need of governmental support. It is only those who have questions in their own faith that do not believe that God can exist without state sponsorship and the words under God in their pledge. Ultimately, not having state sponsorship of religion and not having under God in the pledge does not diminish religious freedom, it ensures it.

God will exist if the words under God are not recited by school children. He will exist if in God we trust is no longer on our money. Removing words will not remove him, and to think that the only thing that makes this country great is the words under God and in God we trust, then you have a serious lack of understanding about this county.


Melody said...

Interesting thoughts there Dingo... I am here via Michele today.

Anonymous said...

Your on the money Dingo, especially when you realise that the Vatican declared itself God's representative on earth. [Please don't ask me for references, I'm confident of the fact though]. Their logic being God created everything, Jesus was (if you believe the bible) God's representative on earth, and Jesus passed his teaching/church onto Peter and every Pope since in an unbroken lineage. Don't mention the documented gaps though ok. Not to spell it out for you, but what do think the lovely New World Order is? Conspiracy theory? Well lets start with who owns the Federal Reserve Bank, 'cause its a private company - check out its listing in the phone book for starters, its next to Federal Express.