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“Under God” Is Unconstitutional

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The Pledge of Allegiance with the 1954 addition of “under God” was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge yesterday.

The decision clears the way for the pledge to be barred in the schools affected by the suit; however, it also puts the case on the fast track back to the Supreme Court.

The Pledge was already ruled unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when it ruled in 2002. This is the same body that the appeal is going to, so it seems likely that they will stand by their precedent and reaffirm their decision.

When the case came before the Supreme Court previously, they dodged the case by saying that it could not proceed because the claimant was not an authorized representative in the suit. This time that’s not the case, so it looks like the Supremes will either have to tackle the case or let the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stand.

What’s the big deal you say? Isn’t this harmless, is it worth all this fuss? Complainant Michael Newdow sums it up as follows:

“All it has to do is put the pledge as it was before, and say that we are one nation, indivisible, instead of dividing us on religious basis,” Newdow told The Associated Press.

“Imagine every morning if the teachers had the children stand up, place their hands over their hearts, and say, ‘We are one nation that denies God exists,'” Newdow said.

“I think that everybody would not be sitting here saying, ‘Oh, what harm is that.’ They’d be furious. And that’s exactly what goes on against atheists. And it shouldn’t.”

To me this case highlights the very reason that politics and religion do not mix. Religion is divisive and does not represent all people. This is the purpose of separation of church and state as it was devised by the founders. Because religion and belief are so polarizing, leaving it completely out of government allows the state to govern based on the needs of society, not on the agenda of a particular faith or representatives of that faith.

As a priest, a Republican, a former senator and former UN ambassador, John Danforth is in a great position to speak on this issue and he says, “The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.”

If he and others in the Republican party are starting to feel a little skittish about being so bound to Christian conservatives and their agenda, imagine how the rest of us feel?

You need no further proof of this that to watch the nightly news. The vast majority of issues dividing this nation are along religious lines. Every story you read about the Ten Commandments, activist judges, prayer in school, homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, the right to die, censorship in TV and movies, sex, art, you name it – those are ALL about religion. And if you go back over that list, see if you can name all the different politicians and government agencies that have some sort of association with those topics. In a place where politics and religion are supposed to be divided, it sure seems like we are up to our eyeballs in unity.

The problem is that this creates division, it creates marginalization and it creates exclusivity and corruption. Perhaps not corruption in monetary terms but in terms of fairness. How do you think a person who is staunchly religious is going to interact with someone who is not? What if your life choices go against the religious choices fed to you by a united church and state? Do you really think people are going to be operating impartially? We already have pharmacists, nurses and doctors who can choose not to treat you if they disagree with you on religious grounds. That’s staggering. And you know who allowed that to happen legally? The federal government.

This is why it’s so critical that we maintain a separation – laws and government must be free to make decisions based on the best thing for the society, not the best thing to promote an agenda based on beliefs. The sooner we realize that this lack of separation is tearing us apart as a country, the sooner we can get back on the road to fixing it.

It is unconstitutional to promote religion, and that’s why the Pledge is unconstitutional. Freedom of religion allows us all to practice or not practice as we see fit. Religion is a private choice and a private relationship. Let’s keep it private where it belongs, I promise you we will all get along much better.

This article originally appeared on The Rudicus Report.


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  • I agree with you Rudicus (good Roman name by the way.) The separation of church and state may be America’s greatest gift to the world. But the argument I get from my neighbors here in Tardville is that banning religion from public schools is not neutral in the context of the culture war between evangelicals and secularists. They also argue that it is particularly unfair to do this when tolerance to homosexuals is being taught in schools (or as they call it promoting homosexuality.) So as they see it, their side is not getting equal time. How would you respond to this argument?

  • steve

    if you find the pledge offensive…then dont say it. thats all there is to it. I will always say “one nation, under GOD, indivisibe; with liberty; and justice for all.

  • If you find the idea of Freedom of Religion intolerable, don’t live here…

    The argument has little to do with SAYING the Pledge, steve, and everything to do with REQUIRING it to be said.

  • david

    The Fifth Dentist
    Separation of church and state also means that you cannot enact a law that would be
    “banning religion from public schools”. The separation was intended to keep a power structure of statemanship based on religiosity from occuring. Such theocracies developed in some of the colonies, and we had 200 years of american history before we had the most recent 200, to learn from.
    But, it was intended to encourage and provide for equal access to both politics and religion for all.

    Regarding homosexuality, the metric system was promoted also but did we ever convert everyone over to that? Is the public school system where you want your child learning any sexuality, other than just biology and reproductive sciences? What are the qualifications of the educators? It seems defining sexual practice apart from reproduction, which we all do have in common at this point, would also be a divisible factor.

  • Joey

    I intend to belabor my point on any blog addressing this issue…

    If my theology indoctrination to Hebrew and early Christian scriptures serves…. the people of “The Way” aren’t supposed to swear blood oaths, or any other typ of oath. in other words it’s against scriptural principle to Pledge Allegiance.

    In fact, according to scriptures and quotes from Jesus demanding people to enact a Pledge to anything or anyone is against the Word of God.

    Surprizing turn of events. Those desiring to erase the pledge out of public schools are actually doing stupid Christians a favor.

    I wonder if those responsible for the act of brotherly protection even realize the implications of preventing their “brothers” from stumbling or striking “his” foot against a stone (causing one to sin).

  • David —
    My point had nothing to do with teaching sex education. It had to do with schools teaching kids to be tolerant of gay people which I am very much in favor of.

  • >>Religion is divisive and does not represent all people.

    Very succinctly and nicely said.

    People who want it to stay say, “It’s easy, just ignore it.”

    They don’t really think that through to how that could easly be switched around to any number of things. Is the pledge harmless? The answer sadly, is, it depends. If you don’t say it because of your OWN beliefs, you not only can be but you ARE judged heavily by people who happily judge and happily put you at a much lower level than themselves.

    The reality of morality, virtue and honor is much more than a pledge. But that reality doesn’t always square with the general society’s reality.

    Frankly, it’s the same kind of judgment I make if someone continuously tries to convert me to any religion. F— you and f— off.

    How about – you believe what you believe and leave me alone. And I’ll leave you alone.

    Too easy.
    Too hard.

  • I said the pledge of allegiance with “under God” in for years when I was in Catholic school (K-8th) and I always thought that kids in public schools didn’t say the “under God” portion. And when I went to high school, we didn’t say the pledge at all. Although when my sister was in high school, after September 11th, the school suddenly required everyone to say the pledge.

    I think a lot of this has to do with people preserving what they grew up with. Even though “under God” was an addition to the pledge, it’s what people grew up with and some want that to stay the same.

  • Luke

    Teaching any kind of tollerance is stupid, simply tell the kids, “what people look like or do in private is their own business, not yours, so be tollerant to the extent that you only worry about your own preferances and no one elses” going into detail about what they’re being tollerant of doesn’t need to be said, the same as you needn’t explain to kids that they should be tollerant of fecalfeliacs, “see kids, some people are sexually attracted to excrement, and we should all respect and tollerate their life choices” <--how dumb would that be, we really really DON'T need to know.

  • Sterfish, you raise a decent point..but i hope you are aware that the “under god” portion was NOT how the Pledge was originally written..it was added during the McCarthy era of the 1950’s to propagandize the difference between the US and Russia

    so..when do you propose to draw that line to “keep things the same”…for a baby boomer…or someone that was born during the Depression?..or….


  • >>Sterfish, you raise a decent point..but i hope you are aware that the “under god” portion was NOT how the Pledge was originally written..

    I do know that it was not part of the original pledge. I guess I wasn’t clear when I acknowledged in my earlier post that “under God” was an addition to the pledge.

    I wanted to make the point that nostalgia may have as much to do with the reason why people want “under God” in as much as wanting God to be in public schools/areas in general. And when it comes to nostalgia for some, it doesn’t matter if what they remember wasn’t original…it’s what they remember and that’s what they want.

    Frankly, I think that the pledge should be restored to what it was originally. Religious and private institutions can have kids say “under God” if they like, but it shouldn’t be required to be said in public schools, plain and simple.

  • donald

    Is this country supposed to just sit back and watch what I fought for in the Military?
    Has this country come to the point where the President places his right hand on the bible that bible is the word of God. Now are we going to change that too? I am a Catholic and I belive Under god and In god and No One will take that right from me and my family. If You don’t believe in God then get out of the us. Because the 4 fathers in this country built churches which are Gods houses of worship.

  • What exactly did you fight for in the military, Donald? I mean, besides the freedom to butcher the English language.

  • zingzing

    “If You don’t believe in God then get out of the us.”

    that goes against the principles of the nation in so many ways.