June 27, 2002

Did everyone hear about this: Judges Ban Pledge of Allegiance From Schools, Citing 'Under God'?

"In a decision that drew protest across the political spectrum, a three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the pledge, as it exists in federal law, could not be recited in schools because it violates the First Amendment's prohibition against a state endorsement of religion.

In addition, the ruling, which will certainly be appealed, turned on the phrase "under God" which Congress added in 1954 to one of the most hallowed patriotic traditions in the nation.

From a constitutional standpoint, those two words, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote in the 2-to-1 decision, were just as objectionable as a statement that "we are a nation `under Jesus,' a nation `under Vishnu,' a nation `under Zeus,' or a nation `under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion." "

The story goes on to say:

"The National Conference of State Legislatures says half the states require the pledge as part of the school day and half a dozen more recommend it. In the burst of patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, bills to make the oath mandatory have been introduced in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi and Missouri... Writing for the majority, Judge Goodwin said the school district is "conveying a message of state endorsement of a religious belief when it requires public school teachers to recite, and lead the recitation of the current form of the pledge.""

Here's my opinion, and this in one person's opinion. There have been multiple rulings about the separation of church and state, particularly in the schools. The rulings enforce the separation. So why should kids be forced to say "under God" despite their religious opinions?

It seems like a very straightforward, clear issue to me. If you were required to stand up every day before work and say a pledge that ended with "one office, under Satan" or one office, under Madonna", you'd either feel like a hypocrite or refuse to do it (except for you devil and Madonna worshippers out there). The thing is, you probably could refuse to do it, because you're an adult.

When I stood up in class and recited the Pledge, I felt like a hypocrite. Not only because I wasn't sure I believed in God, but also because I wasn't sure I believed in America. It was during the Reagan years when I flirted with the ideas of communism and nihilism. I stood up and recited the words regardless, because if I hadn't I would have been considered more of a geek and outcast than I already was. A few years later, when the Pledge was no longer required, I understood more clearly that it was hypocrisy for the schools to be making me do it, as well as my own for doing it.

Yahoo's story about the case says:
"...the appeals panel went a step further, ruling the Constitution protects students who don't believe in a monotheistic deity from even having to make an "unacceptable choice between participating and protesting."

It's hard to protest when you're a kid and the most important thing to you is trying to fit in. It's hard for vegetarian kids to turn down a hamburger when everyone else is eating them. It's hard for a teenager to proclaim herself a Democrat amongst Republicans. It's hard for kids to say no to drugs when the kids around them are smoking joints.

When a kid has an ideal ("I don't believe in killing animals for food" "I believe that Reagan is trying to destroy the welfare system") or when the parents are trying to encourage the kid to go along with their own ideals ("Drugs are bad for you" "Vishnu is the one true deity") we don't need the schools confusing matters.

I suppose you could let it all come back to the idea that the children are supposed to get their morals and fundamental learning from the home, not the school. People are always flying into furies when the schools suggest corporal punishment ("No one hits my kid but me!") but they think nothing of allowing the schools to push the words "under God" out of kids' mouths. I have no problem if Mom or Dad have Junior reciting the Pledge before he leaves for school. But I don't see that Junior has to express his patriotism and religion in front of a blackboard and desks full of unforgiving peers.

But back to my main point. I have my own reasons for feeling the 9th Circuit's ruling was correct. But the reason it was correct is beyond my feelings. It's a fact. The Constitution created a separation of church and state. Public schools are state. God is church. It couldn't be any clearer to me. And the ruling only blocks the words "under God", it doesn't say the pledge itself, with that omission, can't be recited.

The 9th Circuit's ruling is vastly unpopular and very well might be overturned. But for a few months here I get to feel like I won one. It wasn't my fight, but it could have been. And I respect the man who made it his.

Posted by Alyssa at June 27, 2002 07:53 AM
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