Massachusetts Supreme Court to hear challenge to Pledge of Allegiance

Many venues, including the Religion News Service, have reported on this story, involving a Massachusetts challenge to the U.S.’s “Pledge of Allegiance.”

First, a bit of surprising history from USHistory.orgI had no idea this was writen by a socialist (Bellamy was an American):

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.

In its original form it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read:

“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.”

In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I used to recite this last version, facing the U.S. flag and holding my hand over my heart, in my elementary school classroom each morning. I’m not sure whether it’s still done in schools, or obligatory, but I think so, for it’s being challenged in Massachusetts as a violation of the First Amendment.

The RNS explains:

Since the addition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, the pledge has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the separation of church and state. In 2004, one case reached the Supreme Court, but ultimately failed, as have all previous challenges.

But the current case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, is different because lawyers for the plaintiffs, an anonymous atheist couple, won’t be arguing about federal law but rather that the compulsory recitation of the pledge violates the state’s equal rights laws. They argue that the daily recitation of the pledge is a violation of their guarantee of equal protection under those laws.

This change of tack in pledge challenges is modeled on a successful precedent laid down in the same court on gay marriage. In 2003, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 in favor of a same-sex couple seeking the right to marry under the state’s equal rights laws. Their win led to similar successful challenges in other state courts — something that could happen here if judges rule for the plaintiffs.

“You would then see a rash of state court lawsuits challenging the pledge all over the country,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is arguing for the defendants. “A win for us would completely avoid that unnecessary harm. And it would affirm that it is not discriminatory to have the words ‘under God’ in the pledge.”

Well, it’s certainly discriminatory against atheists, and even if reciting it is not obligatory, any child who refrained would become an outcast.  So making the “God” pledge optional isn’t a good solution—any more than is the recitation of a mandatory prayer in school with children given the right to opt out. I’m not sure,  given that prayer in schools is forbidden under the U.S. Constitution, why pledging allegiance to God is “not discriminatory.”

A bit more history of the case:

The plaintiffs are represented by the American Humanist Association, a national advocacy group for humanists and other secularists. David Niose, the plaintiffs’ attorney and president of the AHA, could not be reached for comment.

The defendants won the first round in June 2012 when a lower court judge ruled that daily recitation of the pledge did not violate the Massachusetts Constitution, the school district’s anti-discrimination policy or state law. The upcoming oral arguments address an appeal of that decision.

I’m betting the state will win, and “God” will stay in the pledge.  I’m hoping otherwise, but the wall between church and state in the U.S. has slowly been eroding. I don’t understand what the arguments are for not going back to the pre-1954 version (indeed, I object to any recitation of “allegiance” in school!), nor how any rational person can construe “one nation under God” as a nonreligious statement.


  1. ladyatheist
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    There’s no such thing as opting out for elementary children — they shouldn’t be expected to go against their teacher and classmates in order to have their rights respected. So “obligatory” is anything the teacher encourages, in my opinion.

  2. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink


  3. coozoe
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Can we just remove it now? We may have been afraid of Russkies in 1954, but now they are afraid of us.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      I think that the fears that existed during the Cold War were pretty much mutual. The US engaged in many activities and conflicts that can only have been seen as ‘anti-Communist’ or ‘anti-Soviet’ from their perspective. The US developed, and used, the first nuclear weapons. Not against the Soviet regime, admittedly, but their use against Japan will have been see as a clear demonstration of capability, to which they will have had to react, even if only defensively.

      Thankfully, it never came to much more than reciprocal flag-waving and sabre-rattling, with a fair amount of espionage thrown in for good measure.

      • Cliff Melick
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        And don’t forget shoe-pounding.

    • Nick
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      What’s the big deal? When I was 8 or 9 and realized I wasn’t buying the whole “goddy” thing, I still did the pledge each school day, but dropped the part I didn’t agree with: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

      Don’t underestimate elementary age children.

      • Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        The big deal is that as an “elementary age” child, I knew I didn’t believe in God. This wasn’t forced upon me, I just couldn’t make myself believe in God anymore than I could make myself believe in Santa (once I found out). This made reciting the pledge extremely uncomfortable. I felt out of place and phony. I was supposed to be into this, but I was obviously the odd girl out. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I fit in? I never fit in 😦 It was just another reason for the kids to mercilessly bully me. I was made fun of for being poor and for being ugly (they would call me a dog and bark at me and put dog food on my desk and sing dog food commercials). No one would stand next to me or play with me. I wasn’t dirty or stinky. I was just different. I didn’t boast about my godlessness. That would have invited a feeding frenzy I honestly probably wouldn’t have survived. But I wouldn’t say the under God part – not out loud. I tried to get through it hoping that this time I wasn’t going to get kicked in the small of my back. I made my lips move but they caught on. More proof for them that I was less than human. More proof for them that I was nothing but a beast to be tormented for entertainment – to be tormented so as to strengthen their own social statuses. “Look, I just made that weird girl cry – I’m on YOUR side”. I was told I was going to hell and that I was Satan’s daughter. I endured this from 4th to 6th grade. I was so fucking lonely. And confused. I never told anyone what was going on. I suffered in silence. ANY situation which may negatively isolate a child from the pack is entirely unacceptable in public school. The pledge clearly violates constitution and it IS a Big. Fucking. Deal. It seems you are the one who grossly underestimated “elementary aged children”.

        • Nick
          Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Jeanine – you totally misunderstood my reply. It was directed to ladyatheist’s claim of “no opting out”. I simply stated that I DID opt out. But I am happy you had a chance to vent your spleen.

          • Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

            In what manner am I misunderstanding your reply? Yeah, you did opt out but also declared that it was “no big deal”. I was explaining, very personally and painfully, situations in which opting out is quite literally a big deal. I answered your question.

            • Jim Hudlow
              Posted September 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

              “Opting out” as you say is terrifying, totally intimidating to young students who want to belong to the general group. Take a closer look at how children treat other children…and how parents advise their children to treat anyone who disagrees with their system of belief. it is a trauma with life altering consequences.

              • Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

                Yes, 100% yes. This was my experience.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted September 4, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Sorry, that’s BS. Kids might know they don’t believe what they’re being told, but despite your own intrepid behavior, they are extremely unlikely not just “go along”. Hell, even as adults, I know a lot of atheists who go to church, sit through the entire service, just to keep the peace within the family.

        The point is that kids shouldn’t have to put up with any kind of religious indoctrination, whether you think it’s a big deal or not.

  4. Gordon Hill
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    As an adult in Mass one can substitute “eating cod” for under god. Kids could be encouraged to say, Living mod” or “with a nod” or something else… 😉

    • Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Or “ain’t no god,” which is doubly subversive due to the poor grammar.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        …except my grammar was humble, never poor.

  5. gbjames
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:10 am | Permalink


  6. Alex Shuffell
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    With Bellamy’s original pledge of allegiance he also intended for the Bellamy, or flag, salute (arm and hand out straight) to be held, instead of the hand on heart thing. But in the 1930s the Bellamy salute became popular with fascists in Italy and Germany so it was changed.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      Interesting picture of it here –

      • Alektorophile
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        That is rather interesting, I had never heard of the Bellamy salute. I learned something new today, thanks. The picture you linked to is from 1941, surprisingly late. According to Wikipedia the salute was changed to the hand on heart only in December 1942, because of its resemblance to the fascist one (which, according to the same page, had nothing to do with the Bellamy one but was inspired by the ancient Roman salute).

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        That’s chilling!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        That’s chilling!

        • Dominic
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          But it made me laugh! Reminds me that the England soccerball team infamously gave Nazi salutes at a pre-war game with Germany.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        There should be electricity arcing from their fingertips.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Wow. I bet you could piss off more right-wing religionists with that photo than with anything since (I think is was) Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ”.

  7. krzysztof1
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    An interesting argument for sure. Keeping fingers crossed.

  8. Dominic
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Why would you pledge allegiance at all if you are not in the military? I suppose it is a form of social glue to make you feel that you belong together, coming as you do from such diverse cultural, linguistic & ethnic groups.

    What happens if you refuse to say it? Do you get sent to Canada?

    • steve oberski
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Only if you are very, very good.

    • Alektorophile
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      As a foreigner, the US insistence on a nationalistic pledge in its schools always struck me as odd, particularly given how late in the country’s history it was adopted. Mexico has a pledge in its schools, too. It all smacks of a 19th C. approach to identity- and nation-building. In my entire life, I never had to pledge allegiance to any country or flag, and that includes when serving in my country’s army.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        Ditto. I don’t remember pledging to anything whatsoever when I was a recruit.

        Unbridled nationalism can be a powerful and tricky drug.

      • Dominic
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        Very interesting!

        • Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          When my English mother heard that we were doing this every morning in school, she said something along the lines of, “You Americans must be very insecure. In England, we knew we were English–no one had to remind us every morning.”

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        Part of the original intention was to remind everyone who won the American Civil War — “one nation, indivisible”. In it’s original form it was purely secular, however distasteful.

        It’s my opinion, but not just mine, that the placement of the “under God” addition later on served a dual role of promoting religion and muting that phrase. Given that Christian Fundamentalism marches arm in arm with Neo-Confederate sympathies, this is not a stretch.

      • Gary W
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        It all smacks of a 19th C. approach to identity- and nation-building.

        No, it smacks of a country founded on the idea of commitment to a set of political principles. As opposed to European national identities, which were traditionally defined by ancestry and culture, and now aren’t really defined by anything.

        • Alektorophile
          Posted September 4, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

          Not so sure there is a difference. Those European ideas of ancestry and culture, as embraced in the 19th Century, were almost entirely constructed out of thin air, with the explicit aim of inventing a nation and a common identity where there wasn’t one before. Trickier to do in the US, where even the language doesn’t set the population apart from others. Back then some European countries were faced with a similar problem, for example Switzerland, and had to resort like the US to the same lofty ideas of liberty, justice, and so on to try to invent a nation where there wasn’t one before. I was just wondering why in the case of the US the need for such nation-building propaganda continued well into the 20th century and beyond while in Europe nationalism of the US sort has largely become a dirty word. Mainly due to two world wars, and a different experience and perception of them on the two sides of the Atlantic I guess.

          • Gary W
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            It seems to me there’s a pretty clear difference between defining a national identity by commitment to a set of political principles (as described in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), which is the American way, and defining it by blood ancestry and culture (in particular, religion and royalty), which until recently was the European way. There isn’t really any European way any more. What does it really mean to be British or French or German these days?

  9. Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a Brit, I’m a bit surprised that the fact that reciting the Pledge is not obligatory is not well known to American atheists.

    This was one of the most notable and famous Supreme Court rulings, the Barnette decision. The ruling here is well worth reading.

    “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

  10. John K.
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Why children too young to really understand what they are pledging should be compelled to swear allegiance to anything is totally beyond me.

    Now that SCOTUS has twisted things around to allow generalized god references they are in the peculiar position of having to argue that compelling people to pray is not secular while compelling them to swear allegiance to a god is not religious. US law regarding religion gives me a headache.

    I wish such tricky measures were not necessary, but any way that blasted pledge can be removed I am in favor of.

    • Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      “Why children too young to really understand what they are pledging should be compelled to swear allegiance to anything is totally beyond me.”

      Our father, who art in heaven…

      • Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        As a kid, every time I heard the phrase, “our father, who art in heaven” I got a vivid image of my Dad painting at an easel in a big castle in the clouds.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

          My father’s name is Art, so imagine my confusion.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            I too thought it was about our dads but you would have been even sure it was about your dad!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            I also thought it was “who aren’t in heaven”.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 12:36 am | Permalink

            I thought his name was Harold.

  11. Leigh
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    The original pledge was written for children.
    Of its 22 words only 6 have more than one syllable, putting emphasis on the concepts Bellamy considered the essentials of civil society: nation, indivisible, liberty, justice, allegiance, republic.

    What amazes me is that this ditty for children has been adopted by adults. Is there any public meeting in this country that does not begin with a recitation of the Pledge? The spectacle of adults and elected officials solemly reciting a childhood lesson, typically with religious fervor, is disheartening. Adults should have a more sophisticated understanding of the history and the principals that underlie our government and Constitution. By all means, get the words under God out of the pledge, but I would like to see us leave the entire Pledge in the 19th century. It is time to abandon it. If children and adults have to recite something, why not the Preamble of the Constutituon. It is not much longer than the current pledge, was written by adults for adults, embodies the essentials of our national values, and sets forth the rational for our government.

    In my state, state law mandates recitation of the Pledge and a moment of silence. Participation is voluntary but students are required to stand up and remain quiet while others recite.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Aside from the God part, my problem with the whole thing is that it’s so mind-numbingly obtuse. Does reciting this day after day do anything to instill patriotism in school kids? And then to recite it at the beginning of public meetings? What’s the point?? Far better to sing Woody Guthrie.

      Anyway, a recent re-run of a Calvin & Hobbes strip that I well recall seems to have been condensed, at the least. The one that I distinctly remember from ~1985 had these lines:
      I pledge allegiance
      To Queen Fragg
      And her mighty state of hysteria

      And to the Republican Witch she stands
      With Liberty and Just Us for Oil

      Strangely, I can’t find a trace of this one online.

      • gbjames
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        Much as I like Woodie Guthrie, I’ve always cringed at the words “This land was made for you and me.”

        • Hempenstein
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          I suppose there is that aspect. I guess I’ve focused more on the “Redwood forests to gulfstream waters…” parts.

          • pacopicopiedra
            Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

            The best part is this one

            As I went walking, I saw a sign there
            And on the sign it said, “no trespassing”
            But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing
            That side was made for you and me

  12. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Although we don’t have a pledge, authorities found other ways to exclude females and atheists (which I take personally) in the Canadian national anthem. The original 1908 English lyrics had no religious or specifically male references (originally “though dost in us command” – admittedly clumsy – which was replaced with the patriarchal “in all they sons command” in 1914). When I learned that line in grade 1, I thought “sons” was “suns” because the whole sentence is a confusing abstraction to a child and “sun” made more sense to me.

    Then they really messed it up by throwing god in there in the line, “God keep our land glorious and free”. I didn’t learn that line until it was changed in the 70s.

    There have been attempts to go back to a gender neutral, god-free version but they have failed so far. In French it is even more god filled, “Car ton bras sait porter l’épée/Il sait porter la croix!” but at least it’s not sexist like the English one. It’s actually nicer in what it says, other than the cross part.

    • Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately we (Canadians) do not live in an entirely secularly-de jure country. In my elementary school in Quebec in the 1980s, us kids even had the occaisonal teacher which insisted on us singing “God Save the Queen” from time to time, which is even worse (because of the colonialism).

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Ugh that’s extra awful in Quebec! I never learned God Save the Queen & I’m in English speaking Ontario!

        • Dave
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          How did you get away with that? We had to sing the damned “hymn” every day!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            I dunno, we never learned it. We had to say the Lord’s Prayer though.

            • Dave
              Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

              Of course, I am thinking back to the late fifties/early sixties (ah, kindergarten) and can’t remember how far along I got before it was stopped. I am guessing high school, though, so that would have been 1967+.

              • Dave
                Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

                In Ottawa.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

                Yeah I was in elementary school in the 70s so I escaped God Save the Queen but still suffered through The Lord’s Prayer. I also had to sing Jesus Loves Me. Ugh. And why? Because the bible tells me so. I wish I had asked for better evidence.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink


                I always thought that was rather pathetically weak, cynic that I am. Biiiig setup – Jesus loves me, this I *know* – which naturally begs the question “how?”. And the answer is ‘cos the Bible says so’??? What, really? Is that it? The ultimate in bathos. Just begging for a laugh.
                Even as a kid I thought “is that the best you can do? Haven’t got anything… better?”

      • Dave
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        It’s worse than that. Go and read the first sentence of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms!

        • Dave
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

          I forgot to add, shameful!

  13. iariese
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I can understand, after 1865, pledging allegiance to “the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”, since the Civil War brought up those issues. Liberty and justice SHOULD still be important to us today (and I don’t think the modern secession movements are anything much more than a joke).
    However, IF we pledge to anything, we should be pledging to uphold the Constitution, much as oaths elected officials take (and ignore, unfortunately).
    ‘God’ has nuthin’ to do with any of that.

  14. Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Replacing “my flag” with “the flag of the United States of America” and the addition of “under God” are not the only changes made to the original pledge. Bellamy originally wrote “liberty, equality and fraternity for all”, but changed it to “liberty and justice for all” to avoid resistance from politicians who opposed woman’s suffrage.

  15. Notagod
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    In elementary school I was rated “unsatisfactory” in social skills, or whatever that part of the grade report was, for not saying “under doG”. Now I would be opposed to saying the whole thing but, back then I took my pledges seriously and couldn’t justify pledging to something I wasn’t reasonably sure of.

    As I remember it, I had actually been generally saying the offensive phrase, although not happily, until one day the teacher whispered in my ear that she had notice I hadn’t said “under doG” and if I didn’t do it in the future she would give me an “unsatisfactory” rating. It was one of the first times I had caught an adult affirming something that I knew was untrue (that I wasn’t saying “under doG”), so after consideration of not really wanting to say it and the teacher stating that I hadn’t, I decided to stop saying “under doG”.

  16. Avis James
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I did what I did in Junior High School when at the Dona Ana County Courthouse about 2 weeks ago, I just dropped the “under god” part. I was there for a different fight that day, and civil rights won! Marriage equality was supported in Southern New Mexico. I find it ironic to learn from you, Jerry, of this new twist on atheist’s rights.

    • Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I may have an incomplete understanding of the meaning of the word “irony”, but I don’t get how learning about a law suit challenging the Pledge of Allegiance from Professor Coyne is ironic. He’s just the sort of person I’d expect to learn about it from. Where’s the irony in that?

      Linguistic quibbles aside, that’s good news from New Mexico! If it means that you got to get married, then congratulations!

  17. E.A. Blair
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    It’s also on record that the whole idea of the pledge was a marketing ploy to sell flags to schools. That’s about as American as you can get.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      That’s effin hilarious if it’s true.

  18. DrBrydon
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t think god needs to come out. We just need to change the wording to “one nation above god”.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Needs to be plural: “above gods”

  19. Jim Thomerson
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    We fought WWII successfully without God in the pledge. Its insertion was a political, not theological, effort to make clear that we were different from Communists. I thought it incongrous when President Bush was in the spreading democarcy mode, and having to defend against the concept that democracy was a Christian based idea not good for non Christian nations.

    I notice a correlation between the insertion of God, the origin of Rock n’ Roll, and the beginning of the percipitous decline of Western civilication. Maybe some causation here as well?

  20. Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Until they drop this ridiculous compulsory (and time wasting) chanting for students, I recommend substituting *without god*.

  21. Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    My kindergartener had to recite it in Burbank, California. She didn’t quite get the pledge right, however, which pleased me: “one nation under guard…”

    • davidintoronto
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Geographically, “one nation under Canada” also works. 😉

      • Kevin Henderson
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        I like that. Canada is greater than any god (maybe not saying much of anything) but it is still a fine country.

      • Mike
        Posted September 4, 2013 at 1:24 am | Permalink

        Here come the lawsuits from Hawaiians and Alaskans.

  22. Jules
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    As an eighth grade school student, I found that there is not very much pressure to recite “under God” in the classroom. Every day, I said “under reason” instead, and did not run into any difficulties.

  23. Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Arizona state employees are required to sign this loyalty oath:

    “I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

    I still want to know who gets to choose Arizona’s “enemies”.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      The guys who schedule the football season?

    • Gary W
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      I still want to know who gets to choose Arizona’s “enemies”.

      For the purposes of Arizona state law, the government of Arizona presumably gets to decide whether someone is an enemy of the state. Same as the federal government decides who is an enemy of the U.S.

    • madscientist
      Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:18 am | Permalink

      My guess is that Mexican guy who hates all other Mexicans and who works at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

  24. Ian Belson
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Concerning equal protection under the law approach to the legal challenge it is interesting to note that the pledge is of course not only discriminatory against atheists but also against Buddhists who don’t believe in a god or Hindus who believe in many. It is unsaid but the implication of capitalizing “God” is that is only the god of the Abrahamic religions that need apply.

    • davidintoronto
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Apparently, the notion of “ceremonial deism” has legal traction. It’s a curious rationalization, though. By definition, the god of deism has no particular interest in ceremony.

  25. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Ironically, Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge, was !*precisely*! the sort of “social justice Christian” that Glenn Beck regards as a great danger to America.

    And Sarah Palin’s “If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers, it’s good enough for me” was something she really said (unlike the sarcastic jest of the fundamentalist who said the King James Bible was good enough for Jesus.)

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      On behalf of Northen Europe I’d just like to say a quick, but heartfelt “Thanks for not electing that woman as your vice-president”.

      I’m fairly certain we all dodged a bullet on that one.

      • gbjames
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        We also dodged a moose.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          LOL. Damn straight!

          And I can’t even see Russia from here…

      • Gary W
        Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        On behalf of Northen Europe…

        Who gave you the authority to speak for Northern Europe?

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          I did. I have no shame in that respect. 😉

          • Gary W
            Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

            I’ve noticed.

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Who gave you the authority to question his authority?

          • Gary W
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

            I don’t need any authority to do that.

  26. Jim Hudlow
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    The current pledge…an xtian indoctrination tool. The pledge without ‘under god’ is still a state indoctrination tool. Our government does not need this to gain a citizen’s respect. Our government has to act in repespectable ways to gain the respect of the citizenry.
    And then our Motto…for 174 years our de facto motto was the all inclusive E Pluribus Unum. Now, thanks to the Knights of Columbus (who also got ‘under god’ inserted into our pledge), we have a totally devisive and exclusive motto….where if you do not believe in the proper xtian god, and who knows which abrahamic deity they are talking about, you are an outcast. We will get these things changed in my lifetime…if I am not run down by a fundie in my relative youth

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Permalink


      I regard oaths of allegiance as futile, suspect and potentially evil. I would also regard a compulsory oath as void and non-binding, since it was not voluntary. My country will get my allegiance if it deserves it. (And I’m reasonably tolerant about that). But if it blatantly doesn’t deserve it, why should it get it? I’d also feel personally insulted at being asked to swear one. If they’re so suspicious of me, what makes them think they can coerce my loyalty with a silly oath?

      The best that can result from an oath of allegiance is to give some sort of sense of unified purpose, I suppose. Which any decent enterprise should generate by itself, no oath required. The worst is that reasonable and honorable people, who would otherwise be appalled at what they’re being asked to do, and would flatly refuse, feel constrained by their oath and go along with shameful behaviour. (Google ‘Hitler oath’ for the classic example).

      • Gary W
        Posted September 4, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

        Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is voluntary, not compulsory (in public schools, at least).

        Britain has similar pledge, the Oath of Allegiance, which involves an oath not only to God, but to the British monarch too. And in the British national anthem, God Save The Queen, Brits cheerfully ask for their queen “long to reign over us.”

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted September 4, 2013 at 1:53 am | Permalink

          But like “voluntary” school prayer (which the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional), a “voluntary” Pledge puts schoolchildren in the position of either conforming, or drawing attention to themselves as non-conformists. It thereby serves as a political litmus test by which school officials and parents can identify non-conforming kids. What educational purpose is served by such a test? And does it really make sense to expect six-year-olds to give informed consent to it?

          Surely oaths of this sort ought to be reserved for people old enough to understand both what it is they’re swearing to, and what the consequences are of opting out.

          • Posted September 4, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

            As a mother of children who went to a public elementary school in Massachusetts where the pledge was a matter of controversy, I came to see the daily pledge recitation as counterproductive even to its advocates’ aims. When I was a kid, I just recited it by rote without ever thinking about it. I think it’s the rare kid who understands what the pledge really means for the pledgee before high school. So, I think, like most kids, I was taught (tacitly) that it was a piece of doggerel that meant nothing more than that classes were about to begin. It had zero emotional or patriotic impact because it was so routine and never discussed. (I suspect it’s rarely discussed because then the schools would have to deal with questions raised and a sudden increase in kids who would prefer not to say all or part of it.) There are, I’m sure, a few kids in every class who take the pledge to heart, believe in it, and recite it with meaning. But there’s nothing preventing them from doing the same thing voluntarily at home or wherever they see a flag flying (every few blocks in most places). In every class there are probably also a few kids who understand what it means and object to some part or all of it. If they are made to feel uncomfortable at all, and if they have any brains at all, they will begin to seriously question what the Bill of Rights actually means in any practical sense. And if they go along to get along (not going along is an awful lot to expect of an elementary or even junior high student), the school is essentially teaching them to lie. So, in my opinion, for most kids, the daily pledge recitation ends up teaching them either to take pledges and oaths lightly because they are just told rather than asked to do it or teaching them to lie and to get used to lying on a daily basis. I don’t think either of those is a good result.

          • Gary W
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            I agree. I don’t think there should be any organized recitation of the pledge in schools. But it’s not compulsory in the sense that schools are allowed to sanction students who refuse to recite it.

            • E.A. Blair
              Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

              “…it’s not compulsory in the sense that schools are allowed to sanction students…”

              That’s never stopped schools from discriminating against students so far.

              • Gary W
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

                It most certainly has. Indeed, the 70-year-old case in which the Supreme Court ruled such discrimination unconstitutional involved a school that attempted to expel some Jehovah’s Witness students for refusing to recite the Pledge. Any school that tried to sanction students today would immediately be subject to a lawsuit from the ACLU or some other party.

              • E.A. Blair
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

                Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter what the courts say, the schools are still going to discriminate on an individual, not an institutional basis, and teachers, school officials and other students will continue to discriminate on an individual level as well, and all the lawsuits in the world aren’t going to stop it. If lawsuits had made any difference in the past, there wouldn’t be any need to continue waging them.

                The Constitution also states that there shall be no religious test for federal office, but there is a religious test in the minds of the voters, and nothing the ACLU can ever do will change the fact that it’s almost impossible to get elected or appointed to any significant position in the US government unless you pay lip service to Jesus and end every speech with “God Bless America”. It is at best naive and at worst abjectly ignorant to maintain otherwise.

              • Gary W
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

                Obviously, laws against discrimination are not perfect. That doesn’t alter the fact that the kind of discrimination you’re describing is illegal. If you seriously believe the law does nothing to prevent such discrimination, I’m not sure why you would support it at all.

              • Notagod
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

                There is a very real difference between written law and how laws are applied. When I was in school we were required to recite the pledge including the very offensive two words.

                Defending what the law may state without regard for how it is applied is a mistake of overconfidence. Most children don’t have the financial resources nor legal expertise to defend themselves from the misapplication of law. And the rethuglicans interest is to remove even more governmental oversight.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 4, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink

          I have never heard of anybody in England reciting any Oath of Allegiance, far less doing it daily in schools. You’re full of straw men, Gary.

          • teacupoftheapocalypse
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

            The British Oath of Allegiance is sworn by certain senior UK public servants, and also by newly naturalised subjects in citizenship ceremonies. In one form or another, it’s been around since Magna Carta.

          • Gary W
            Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            According to Wikipedia, the British Oath of Allegiance is recited by newly naturalized citizens, members of Parliament and other public officials, judges and magistrates, police officers, clergy, members of the armed forces, and scouts and girl guides, among others. And then there’s your national anthem too.

  27. madscientist
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    I always refused to recite the pledge of allegiance because for me it sounded like the sort of thing that the damned commies would do. Parroting the pledge is not required by any constitutional law though many people lie and say that it’s mandatory. I guess I was lucky and most of my teachers were honest and didn’t force it on anyone. In the few cases where teachers forced it on students, a bunch of us would obediently wag our lips while simply babbling incoherently. The only people who seemed to notice didn’t care.

  28. Posted September 4, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Another angle – growing up in a Mennonite community, reciting the Pledge was contrary to the church’s position regarding separation of church and state and of where one’s allegiance should be placed. Thus, it was not particularly unusual that many school kids would opt out of the Pledge and even wonder why others who claimed to be xians would recite such a Pledge. I believe that many Mennos still do not participate in the Pledge and schools such as Goshen College [IN] do not play the national anthem.

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