'Under God' should go

Campus Times
March 28, 2003


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The first 16 words of the First Amendment clearly states our governmental policy on religion. As Thomas Jefferson stated in 1802, the United States was to set out a "wall of separation" between church and state.

Why, then, does the Pledge of Allegiance contain the words "under God"?

Ever since a June 27, 2002, ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that deemed reciting the phrase in schools unconstitutional, there has been a public outcry on both sides of this argument. The battle over the Pledge has intensified with the wave of patriotism washing over the United States as we enter the second week of war in Iraq. The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, in August of 1892. After minor revisions, the U.S. Government officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942.

In 1954, religious leaders, who were uncomfortable that pledges similar to the Pledge of Allegiance were being used by "godless Communists," lobbied lawmakers to insert "under God" into the Pledge. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in response to the escalating fear of an atomic war between the United States and the Soviet Union, backed the lobbyists, convincing Congress to add the phrase.

Eisenhower said: "From this day forward, millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."

This was a clear endorsement of one faith by the President of the United States of America: the belief in the Judeo-Christian God as the Almighty. Clearly, Eisenhower was establishing the belief in monotheism as the national religion, which is blatantly unconstitutional.

This idea had already been addressed by the Supreme Court prior to the addition of the phrase. Just seven years earlier, in 1947, the Supreme Court clearly laid down a basis for keeping the separation of church and state in the decision of Everson vs. the Board of Education. Justice Black, a major proponent for the "strict separation" of church and state, in history's first attempt to clearly define the establishment clause, delivered the opinion of the Court.

He said that the establishment clause, the section of the First Amendment that states the government has no right to establish a national religion, "means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can pass laws, which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another."

Eisenhower's addition to the Pledge of Allegiance obviously violates the opinion of the Court, the American voice of the Constitution. It is unconstitutional. He was attempting to establish monotheism as the law of the land. He was making an official preference of the federal government of one religion over all others. But, until June of last year, Congress and Eisenhower's addition to the Pledge, however unconstitutional, stood.

The Ninth District Court in San Francisco, which holds jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, finally ruled the phrase unconstitutional.

In the 2-1 decision, the Court delivered its opinion, "To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice and ­ since 1954 ­ monotheism."

This is not an issue of patriotism. The Pledge of Allegiance can and should be recited proudly with the purest dignity, but without the words "under God." One can still absolutely and truly support the United States in a pledge free of religious bias. This is not an atheist view; one can believe in God and the Constitution. One can be Christian, celebrate his or her faith and still be committed to the founding fathers' value of the separation of church and state. "Under God" was unconstitutional from the start because it imposes Judeo-Christian monotheism as the country's religion. There is no way around it.

Striking "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance does not make our country a haven for heathens. It simply shows a dedication to the document that binds us with every American who has ever lived.