Court Debates Whether Pledge of Allegiance ‘Under God’ is Form of Discrimination

Boston judge to weigh in on the heavily litigated phrase

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Candidates recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on Aug. 13 at Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia.

The U.S. Flag Code, a little known set of advisory laws that detail the proper conduct and handling of the Stars and Stripes, states that the pledge of allegiance “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.” Students can ignore this rule, of course — it is, after all, only advisory — and choose to remain seated while other students pledge allegiance “under god.” But then there are those two little words. Should atheists and secularists have to recite them?

(MORE: Unveiling America’s First Public Monument to Atheism)

According to a suburban Boston family, they do not, and they’ve decided to challenge the two offending words in court, arguing that the wording is in breach of the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Children have the right to opt out of the pledge, but according to Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association, which is assisting the plaintiffs, “The opt-out itself is exclusionary and unpleasant” because children who do so are ostracized by their peers.

The court will begin deliberations on Wednesday.

[CNN]

26 comments
DarwinAkbar
DarwinAkbar

Forcing other people to acknowledge your "god" is obvious discrimination. The original pledge as written between 1924 to 1954 until religious extremists added the g- word:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

klgilber
klgilber

Even as a small child, I felt that the concept of being forced to recite a pledge was against everything we stand for as a country. It is way too similar to the militant pledges that the North Koreans are forced to say.

rcastle0347@yahoo.com
rcastle0347@yahoo.com

This is the Pledge of Allegiance for the United States of America, and if you decide to come to our country, then you adopt the customs, or you have the same choices as when you came here, you can leave, as a matter of fact, leave is what you should do. We as Americans, shouldn't have to convince you. You should be pleased to, you should want to, you should be Proud to be an AMerican, and your not!! Your either a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. Which is it???

RustyYates
RustyYates

If God and Jesus were not so evil maybe it would not be such a problem but with god being a genocidal maniac and Jesus torturing most of the people on the planet for eternity, they are about the worst of the worst even if they are imaginary. Christians need a smarter more humane god.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I'd have more sympathy for Muslims who say it's because their children are trained to say "God" instead of "Allah" than I do for Atheists who may possibly have to acknowledge the possibility that some believe in God.  You don't believe in Him, so who cares?

sixtymile
sixtymile

As an atheist myself, I resent the association by implication with these members of the "Church of Opposition to Others' Beliefs" who, If they had any of the intellectual integrity typically asserted by atheists, should be able to recognize that they are proselytizing their disbelief through the courts.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Militant atheists annoy me. God may only exist within people's minds, but then again, so does the value of a 100 dollar bill. I'd have rather an uphill battle convincing people to deny it's reality.


S_Deemer
S_Deemer

"Under God" was inserted into the Pledge when I was in 2nd grade, during the McCarthy era anti-Communist witch hunts. It offended me in 2nd grade, and it still does, but recitation is a group act, and there is no need to "opt out" as it is so easy simply to insert a pause where the two offending words occur; it's not worth litigating over.

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite

@rcastle0347@yahoo.com : The "customs" were changed in the 40's and 50's to add the words to the Pledge and Money, so someone wasn't happy with the customs as they were and should've left then. Shall we make your flight reservations..? I am part of the solution as i tend to actually study and know the issue. Knowledge is Power. I am pleased to recite the Pledge in it's original form, you will NEVER make me leave. Stop being the Problem.

klgilber
klgilber

@rcastle0347@yahoo.com You should also learn to spell if you want to be an American. "Your" is possessive. "You're" stands for "you are." 

Americans should not be forced to recite pledges. Doesn't it seem way too communist?

Irony
Irony

@forgottenlord Hmm... well. This may be difficult for you to understand, but some people, atheist and not, value abstract concepts such as freedom of religion, and the right of children not to be bullied and discriminated against with state support for not being of the "right" religion.

 That's what this is about, it's the "prayer in school" thing again. The government is forcing people to express religious beliefs they don't share, (saying it's "opt out" is a flat-out lie, children will, with the support of teachers, bully those who do). I, not as an atheist, but as a human being, do not like this.

Also, like theists, many atheists care about honesty for the sake of honesty, so your notion that they should just "not care" about having to falsely express belief is flat-out offensive and bigoted.

Morality: Some people have it, you do not.

jmac
jmac

@sixtymile As an atheist, I don't agree.

 Why isn't it important to mention that the phrase wasn't in the original pledge?   It was added in 1954.  I remember 1954.  I remember growing up in the south where if you weren't a Christian you were ostracised.  Baptist controlled Killeen Texas in 1964.   No school dances.   A daily morning prayer  'in Jesus name'.   Tell someone you weren't religious and they backed up and did the sign of the cross - even if they weren't Catholic.  They thought lighting was going to strike.     

The U.S. Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time, in the following form, on June 22, 1942.   "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It makes me militant that I prefer the original?  I have no intellectual integrity by saying a pledge made by a group shouldn't refer to a God?  Then why not add God and Allah?  


Shinji_Hirako
Shinji_Hirako

@PaulDirks Just because something is abstract does not mean it doesn't exist.  Infinity, the empty set, the value of currency, and love all exist though they are not concrete.  They have verifiable properties and can be rigorously defined, tested and verified.  Magic sky men and spaghetti monsters not so much.

Irony
Irony

@PaulDirks Yeah, those militant atheists and their militant desire not to be forced to follow a religion they don't believe in. Like those militant Christians who balk at being forced to pray to mecca 3 times a day.

sacredh
sacredh

" Militant atheists annoy me"

Three minute commercials do it for me.



 

DarwinAkbar
DarwinAkbar

@S_Deemer 

Why insert a pause? I go straight on and say it loudly so as to be noticeably out of sync. Religious extremists are not going to make me acknowledge their "god" without push back, simple as is.

jmac
jmac

@S_Deemer Or we can take it out and those who are offended can "opt in" with whatever God they want to opt in with. If you're in third grade and you opt out and get bullied, then it needs to go.  That still happens in the south.  

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@Irony

1) I'm Agnostic.  My inherent nature is to just not care.

2) I'm not saying that "under God" should be there, I'm saying it's really not worth anybody's time to care

3) I find the entire pledge to be more offensive than "under God" - you're asking kids to swear allegiance to a nation before they're young enough to understand what it means.  Under God is immaterial - you are not validating or proving his existence - but pledging allegiance is relevant.

Side note: wasn't it found unconstitutional a few years back?

On a completely different note: how does one thing of questionable morality demonstrate that I inherently lack morality?  Fine, you want to play with sarcasm, knock yourself out.  But if you are going to flame somebody, you better have something iron clad, otherwise you just come off as an a-hole.

sixtymile
sixtymile

@jmac Yes, I am aware of that history. But I don't agree that if some Christians may ostracize you for not sharing their beliefs that we should respond with a similar hostility to theirs. Here in the USofA you can 'prefer' and you can 'say' (or not say, see S_Deemer) as you choose, and there is always integrity in expressing yourself, and (surprise) you may not always be liked for it. But if you want to be free to believe and to act on those beliefs, I think it is right to respect the pledge (as it is) and share it with others, not take your preference to court. And... what about "indivisible" -- isn't that the important part? Can't we all just get along? I think so...

Shinji_Hirako
Shinji_Hirako

@jmac @sixtymile What's so difficult about "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".  Get God out of it.  Don't put Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Santa Claus or Zeus in it.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@Shinji_Hirako @PaulDirks A man was allowed to pose for a driver's licence photo with a colander on his head. Therefore the FSM is REAL! I tell you REAL!!!!


forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@Irony

"Generally, when someone says you lack morality, they mean you have behaved immorally in one particular way. You're bloviating to obscure the point."

I suppose the problem I have here is I said "lack" when what you actually implied was rather "absence" - as lack can mean connotative mean "deficient" - deficient allows for the ability for something to be missing in some areas while present in others.

Though really, the entire stupidity of your action is to take a single post and presume something about the moral makeup of an individual.  Flaming after one post is about the dumbest thing you can do from a debate standpoint.

Which you do again...

"Maybe it is a bit "a-holeish" to point out such blatant bigotry when I see it. I guess it makes the bigots uncomfortable. Oh well. "

Let's assume that my statement was bigoted - does that prove I'm a bigot?  Well, let's consider how bigots act.  Do I accept Atheists?  Yes.  Do I treat them as equals?  Yes.  Do I disparage their beliefs?  Generally, no.  So am I a bigot because one statement might be bigoted?  I don't see how that's possible.  If you saw a general pattern of bigoted and disrespectful statements, you might have a leg to stand on (even then, I think making such claims is actually worthless), but you didn't and so you went and called someone a bigot - and claimed someone did not have morals - based upon a SINGLE statement.  The inherent problem with your action was that you went straight for the flame - you attacked the person rather than the argument.  Which is inherently stupid.  Now, 5 posts later, you're only one post closer to actually demonstrating your actual point.

"I see no way to interpret that other than as a declaration that atheists do not have the same religious freedoms as Muslims, or presumably as religious people in general."

Only if you do not understand what I'm saying.

In my mind, I see nothing offensive with saying "Under God" even though I don't believe in him.  Saying "Under God" or saying Grace or saying a prayer is meaningless to me - not offensive (well, not entirely - saying a prayer I think is actually beneficial spiritually whether God is real or not - but that's a whole other discussion) and I find nothing offensive about it and do not understand why anyone would.  Why?  Because I have nothing that commands my devotion that is higher than a God that doesn't exist.

Those of other religions, however, have higher powers, ones that they are supposed to worship - and worship to the exclusion of God.  Their religion commands them to NOT worship God but instead worship their own deity.  It is inherently in conflict with their religion.

I don't disagree with you on the question of the first amendment - it clearly is in violation of the first amendment - nor do I disagree with you about the stupidity of the opt out clause - a kid is not going to independently opt out.  However, that doesn't mean I think it's worth anybody's time.

Irony
Irony

@forgottenlord @Irony Generally, when someone says you lack morality, they mean you have behaved immorally in one particular way. You're bloviating to obscure the point. 

Don't deny that you said what is clearly written at the top of this comment chain. You stated, bluntly, that you would consider the objections of a Muslim having to declare fealty to nation "under God" credible, but not the objections of an atheist. I see no way to interpret that other than as a declaration that atheists do not have the same religious freedoms as Muslims, or presumably as religious people in general.

Maybe it is a bit "a-holeish" to point out such blatant bigotry when I see it. I guess it makes the bigots uncomfortable. Oh well.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@Irony

Aside from the fact that I didn't say that nor implied it, the only thing that I could have demonstrated a lack of morals on the issue of religious freedom or freedom from religion.  You then took an issue of lacking morality on one field and said as a blanket statement that I am lacking morality.  So let me ask you this: does a person who doesn't hold the door open for all women lack morality?  Does a person who holds a grudge and seeks vengeance lack morality?  Or do those people lack morality in just that field?  If I had demonstrated a pattern of immorality on a breadth of subjects, perhaps you might have a point, but you have admitted that it was a single subject worth of discussion (and we so infrequently run into each other that I can't imagine you actually have followed what my moral standpoint is)

But then there's the issue of what is inherently moral?  The issue of School Prayer is of particular interest in this.  According to the courts, kids can't do organized prayer on school grounds (at least in the US at public schools).  But doesn't that restrict freedom of religion - the freedom to decide how and when you pray?  I'm not saying which of those paths is right - after all, the point that kids bully those who do not pray is not without merit - I'm saying that morality is not absolute.  There are very few things in this world that are inherently immoral and while I have debated several people on this forums - including more than a few people who were just plain offensive - I have avoided using the word "moral" for any reason other than as a way to define beliefs.  To say that I lack morality - even on a particular issue - is to presume that there is a moral absolute and that you hold the right to it.  You have no right to it.  You have a right to your own morality, to define it, but not to declare it the One True Morality.

Irony
Irony

@forgottenlord @Irony Hmm... why do I think you lack moral integrity? Maybe it's the part of your post where you flatly stated that the religious rights of atheists do not matter.

jmac
jmac

@sixtymile @jmac  It's hostilit to say a fourth grader shouldn't have to say 'under God' if they don't believe in a God?  Do you honestly think we can all get along if that fourth grader yells out 'Allah" instead of the word God?   How about yelling out "mother nature" at that point in the pledge?  "Liberty and justice for all" - isn't that the important part?