Let everyone decide

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

Regarding the recent imbroglio surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), as reported by the Juneau Empire, said: "Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves." This comment gives an undeserved sense of historical value to the Pledge, which none of our Founding Fathers ever heard. It was written in 1892 and originally did not include the phrase "under God", which was added in 1954. Invoking the Founding Fathers in this instance is fallacious.

Second, it is not "un-American" to question the norms and values of our society, and calling those who do so terrorists (everybody's favorite insult these days) is begging the question. Today, the compulsory inclusion of such a phrase as "under God" in the daily lesson of every child in the state-run education system of a self-reportedly non-religious state is a paradox, and seems to be a flaw. This argument is rational and deserves consideration.

Third, the court's ruling was not the unconstitutionality of the Pledge itself (although the language of the ruling confuses this), but whether the California policy forcing every school teacher to lead a recitation of the pledge, and thereby expose every student to the words "under God," regardless of the child's speaking the words, violates the separation clause of our Constitution. It was the compulsory nature of the California statute that is at issue. In this light the U.S. House's defiant and much commented upon recitation of the Pledge becomes laughable: They were all there voluntarily, and those who didn't want to stay to listen had the option of leaving. School children do not have that luxury.

Fourth, this is not a unique, unrepresentative left-wing idea of two liberal judges, as indicated by Sen. Murkowski. The questioning of the Pledge has as long a history as the Pledge itself, and one of the Court's precedents was a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled the compulsory recitation of the Pledge to be unconstitutional (and this was before the inclusion of the words "under God"). The step from compulsory recitation to compulsory exposure is not a long one.

For what it's worth, I believe recitation of the Pledge should be voluntary, without a captive audience, and not on school time. Ideally, everyone should decide for themselves to what extent they love their country when they are old enough to do so.

Adam Orford


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