By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
At some point this year, the country is going to get all fired up about the Pledge of Allegiance… again.
Last summer, of course, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge in California wrote the majority opinion in a 2-1 vote that declared one phrase-“one nation under God”-in the Pledge unconstitutional.
The case came before the court because an atheist had sued on behalf of his elementary school-aged daughter.
So outraged was the response, in fact, that the judge stayed his own ruling until an appeal was heard and decided upon. But however unanimous and outraged the response was, that doesn’t make it right.
Because the Pledge of Allegiance as it currently is recited is unconstitutional, it violates the First Amendment and should be amended.
Many arguments were made in favor of the Pledge in the days and weeks after the ruling. The term “ceremonial deity” became common knowledge. Those using the term argued the Pledge and such similar American items mentioning God were a legacy from our founding fathers but now used so often that “God” doesn’t really mean anything in those contexts.
Others argued that America was founded as a Christian country, so of course these things should be left as is.
And still others decried the coming apocalypse.
“Ceremonial deism” is a good argument for certain monotheistic references in Washington, D.C. The Ten Commandments on the walls of the U.S. Supreme Court, the references to God in the Declaration of Independence and the opening prayer in each house of Congress are all examples of this.
The U.S. government is not endorsing monotheism through these things, nor is it discriminating against atheists, Satanists, paganists, naturalists, et al.
However, the Pledge does not qualify here.
Had Frances Bellamy in 1888 written “one nation under God” while he wrote the Pledge,that would be different. But Congress added “under God” in the 1950s, essentially to stick it to the atheistic communists.
That’s a violation of the letter of the First Amendment, not to mention the spirit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” Recitation in a public-funded school is government endorsement of monotheism, not ceremonial deism.
Many Christians are loath to admit it, but “separation of church and state” is indeed a principle supported by the Constitution.
The principle that allows atheists and Satanists to feel comfortable while they attend public school is the same one that allows Christians to do the same, assuming the principle is applied correctly by often-ignorant superintendents.
The judge in California made the wrong decision, but only because the man who started the whole lawsuit on behalf of his daughter didn’t even have legal custody over her. But the principle is still sound and still valid.
Christians can’t have it both ways. The government through the Pledge doesn’t have the right to endorse a monotheistic God any more than it does to endorse the validity of the Koran.