Guest Post From Jon: Does “Under God” Belong in the Pledge of Allegiance?


By Jon Newhall

We were sitting at breakfast on Friday morning when Barbara pointed out a story in that morning’s San Francisco Chronicle.  A three-judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court had ruled, 2-1, that including the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Constitution’s so-called “Establishment Clause.”

c 2007 B.F. Newhall

c 2007 B.F. Newhall

The “Establishment Clause” — as you know — is the first of the ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights.  It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

My God, I thought, this latest decision doesn’t make any sense.   After all, many if not most of our public schools encourage children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance aloud each morning.  And when that daily chant includes the words “under God,” aren’t we indoctrinating our children with a firm religious belief?  Like it or not, there are millions of Americans who don’t believe in God, or who have other very sincere concepts of religion that find this wording objectionable.

Can you imagine the outcry from certain folks on the far, far right if the wording were to say: “one nation under ‘the Gods,’  or “one nation under ‘Zeus,’ or “one nation under ‘Allah’ “?

The Chronicle story went on to report that Judge Carlos T. Bea justified the decision by explaining:  “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God–the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator.”

Judge Carlos T. Bea might be surprised to learn a fact about the Constitution.  The word “God” or “deity” or any similar term does not appear – even once – in the entire Constitution.  Why?  That was not by accident.  It was because the Founding Fathers were strong believers in the separation of church and state.

They knew from personal experience the dangers posed by allowing religion or the church to meddle in the affairs of the state.

I need to make a slight confession here.  One of the reasons I find the inclusion of “under God” so tacky is that I’m a child of the 1940′s and 1950s’.  I clearly remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before the God phrase was added in 1954.  To this day, I find the rhythm of today’s Pledge a tad off key because of the imposition of that phrase.

I also remember that “under God” was added during the so-called McCarthy era, an period of national paranoia.  One of its primary purpose was to prove that God-fearing Americans were clearly superior to those godless communists on the other side of the world.

I’ve always felt that American is better than that, and that we don’t need to chant about our nation and God in order to prove our system is the best the world has to offer.   Because it really is.

c 2010 Jon Newhall

Hey, Everybody: My mom is in the hospital again, and that’s all I can think about right now. As you can see, however, my husband Jon is doing a lot of thinking about Thursday’s Federal Appeals Court decision.  — BFN

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One Comment

  1. admin
    Posted March 13, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Jon and I had another big discussion over breakfast on Saturday. I had a problem with the phrase in his post that lumped “Allah” together with “the Gods” and “Zeus.” In our culture, we don’t take “Zeus” and “the Gods” seriously. Zeus and the Greek pantheon of gods are an antiquated mythology that few, if any, people take take to heart any more. Allah, on the other hand, is the Arabic word for God that is used by Muslims. I take it seriously. I tried to talk Jon into rewriting the phrase to read “‘Krishna,’ ‘the Buddha’ or ‘Allah.’” But I couldn’t get him to budge. — Barbara

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© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall. and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Barbara Falconer Newhall and with appropriate and specifc direction to the original content. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA. The Psalms are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Material originally published and copyrighted by the Oakland Tribune is posted here by permission. WordPress theme adapted from Thematic Theme Framework