America, Our Children Are Being Punished for Excluding God from Pledge of Allegiance


“Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.” – Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

The Religious Right has become very protective of the Pledge of Allegiance – hysterically so – and not in a funny sense, unless you have a very dark sense of humor. America is “one nation under God” and that is all there is to it. If you don’t get with that program, they’re telling us, then get out. And true to the intolerant history of conservative Christianity going back to the fourth century, they are not afraid to coerce obedience.

Of course, the “under God” was not originally a part of the Pledge, which was written back in 1892. The “under God” was not added until 1954, during the conservative-driven hysteria marking the Cold War. Strange that for half a century it was permissible to not be a nation under God, but since then Americans must absolutely prostrate themselves before the Lord God Almighty or face the wrath of his self-appointed inquisitors on earth.

The American Humanist Association, through its website, “which encourages individuals to boycott the Pledge until the phrase “under God” is removed from it,” is fighting for the First Amendment rights of students who don’t want to say “under God.”

The AHA tells us of one tenth grade student in the Ferndale Area School District in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who,

objects to the “under God” language in the Pledge, has attempted to quietly sit at her desk during the flag-salute exercise. In response, her teacher has instructed her to stand for the exercise, under threat of discipline pursuant to a school policy that was recently changed to require students to stand. The student was also told that failing to stand is disrespectful to members of the U.S. military.

Staying true to the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom disrespects the men and women who are tasked with defending that freedom? The Religious Right – and the Ferndale Area School District – have a very warped perception of what, precisely, freedom entails.

“The right of public school students to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance is well-settled,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in reference to the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Coercing students to stand is a violation of their fundamental constitutional freedom of speech.”

“The phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance marginalizes atheist students as second-class citizens,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “No student should be threatened with discipline merely for exercising her or his right to boycott a broken Pledge.”

If we are going to destroy our own Constitution, then why did we ever bother fighting foreign enemies to defend it? The group disrespecting the men and women who have died defending the Constitution is the Religious Right.

On Wednesday, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at the Ferndale Area School District in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It can be read here (pdf).

The atheist student in Pennsylvania is far from alone, of course. On Thursday,

[T]he American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to school officials at the San Jacinto Unified School District in San Jacinto, California, on behalf of the family of a student at Monte Vista Middle School. The letter concerns a seventh grade student who has been coerced by his teacher into standing for the Pledge of Allegiance when he attempted to exercise his right to remain seated during the Pledge. The letter also addresses a banner promoting prayer displayed in the student’s classroom.

The AHA relates a particularly egregious suppression of liberty at Monte Vista Middle School:

When the student, an atheist who objects to the phrase “under God,” attempted to sit quietly at his desk in an undisruptive manner during the Pledge exercise, his teacher berated him and erroneously informed him that the law required him to stand. The teacher then demanded that the student explain his reason for remaining seated, asking, “Do you hate America?” and making other statements meant to pressure him into standing.

Even though, as the AHA relates, “he right of students to opt out of Pledge participation was settled long ago by the United States Supreme Court in West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).”

Yes, it’s been legal for our children to opt out since 1943. Of course that was before God was inserted into the pledge. As you are by now all well aware, there is no opting out of God. Just refer to the Old Testament to see what happens to those who try to exercise some genuine freedom of religion.

And then there is the School District of Lee County in Fort Myers, Florida, where, on Thursday, a student “was punished for exercising his constitutional right to remain seated during the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.”

a senior at Cypress Lake High School, who identifies as an atheist and objects to the Pledge exercise on several grounds including its “under God” language, attempted to remain seated at his desk in a quiet and undisruptive manner during the recitation of the Pledge. However, his teacher berated him, accused him of being unpatriotic, and punished him with in-school suspension. When the student reported the matter to the school administration, he was still given the choice of participating in the Pledge exercise or being punished.

As I pointed out here this spring, God had only been in the pledge of allegiance for six years, since 1954, when the 1960 Republican Platform gave him just one mention. But,

If we jump to 2012, there are 10 mentions of God – God-given this and God-given that. You won’t find the word service appearing in the same sense in 2012 as in 1960. The word “abortion” does not appear even once in 1960, yet appears no fewer than 19 times in 2012 and contraception twice. Likewise, the GOP did not deem “contraception” worthy of mention in 1960. It wasn’t that people weren’t using contraceptives in 1960. The GOP just didn’t care about it.

It is no coincidence that this dramatic increase in intolerance coincides with young people turning away from organized religion in droves. Suddenly, the conservative elements in Christianity see themselves facing not only a loss of privilege but also a loss of control of the society of which they pretend to be guardians. One has only to the shrill complaints of Tony Perkins and Pat Robertson to know how seriously they take this. They didn’t spend years infiltrating and stealing control of the Republican Party just to find out one day that God was irrelevant.

But this sort of nonsense, as demonstrated by Religious Right demagogue James Robison, which is designed to make God more relevant, only has the opposite effect:

Whatever political banner you may wave, you need the banner of the Lord and the principles of Almighty God or you are going nowhere but down. The way up is God. The way out is Divine Direction.

Must? There is no “must” in the First Amendment. The idea of free speech, the idea of freedom of religion, runs counter to the very idea of “must.”

What the Religious Right doesn’t understand is that it is these very sorts of repressive actions that drive young people away from religion and from the Republican Party (witness the delusions of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback).

These young people see their friends being demonized and they are horrified. They know their friends are people, and that people deserve respect regardless of their beliefs. But the Religious Right’s self-defeating conception of free speech and religious freedom is that it is something only they themselves possess.

From our perspective, the fact that they feel they have to coerce people to go along with their idea of religion pretty much says all that needs to be said about their religion.

39 Replies to “America, Our Children Are Being Punished for Excluding God from Pledge of Allegiance”

  1. “I promise to do my duty in love and loyalty to the Führer and our flag.”

    The more things change the more they stay the same

  2. I had a conversation with a “Christian” one day about the possibility of UFOs. This person said he didn’t want to know if there were really any other life “out there”.

    I then asked him why he wouldn’t want to know, he said it was because if there were, his beliefs would be completely wrong and he bases his life on his religion.

    I then asked him, so, you would rather not know the truth so you can keep your beliefs even if they’re wrong because you would rather believe a lie, and he just said, yes.

    How can you ever reason with someone like that?

  3. Religious Orthodoxy is a Prison.
    The flag, in service to it, is but a bloody rag.

    We can never be truly free
    until we have purged our Nation of this pernicious pestilence.

  4. My grandkids are in Texas pubic schools, and they say the Pledge of Allegiance, a Pledge of Allegiance to theTexas flag, and yet a third Pledge to their school. So far, their academic progress is fine, but I am keeping a watchful eye on them and what they are being taught.

  5. You make some excellent points in the article, but you are in serious need of a proofreader. One can make the argument that it is the content that matters, and not the form – but I submit that multiple spelling errors and word omissions (ex: “One has only to (WHAT?) the shrill complaints of Tony Perkins and Pat Robertson to know how seriously they take this.”)are detrimental to making an intelligent point about something and having it regarded with credibility.

  6. I am an Atheist. but the Koch Brothers make me wish there really was a Hell. Also Robinson, Farwell and all the other Millionaire Preachers.

  7. I was ten years old when they inserted that “under God” language. I was already being ostracised because of my parents’ *lack of* a religious belief, and being forced by the teacher, in front of the class, to recite those words, was an added humiliation.

  8. When I was in the 1st grade in 1964 I did not say the god words in the pledge and the girl next to me cried out to my teacher that I had not made a pledge to god. I explained in a very adult manner why I refused to, my teacher accepted my logic. I am getting sick and tired of these buy-bull thumpers and it’s time we started the war against religion that we have been accused of.

  9. let’s take this even further. Why are we asking children to pledge their life to their country? Why are we asking children who have no idea what it means to give their life for their country to say they will? What purpose does asking a child to agree to a pledge that they can neither uphold or truly understand do for this country or that child?

    What place does the Pledge of Allegiance have in our school system? I say it has no place. The Pledge of Allegiance should be used for naturalizing immigrants and new citizens. As an adult, I am not asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance at any time. Why are children asked to say it to have no idea what it really means to pledge allegiance?

    further, these kids in most cases are about to find out the Santa Claus is not real. It’s around that time that they understand that the invisible God is not any more real than the invisible Santa Claus

  10. By your post, one could assume you are one the USA flag burners then? And if so, why are you still in the USA and not some other country where the regulations and laws match your perspective and disposition?

  11. Do those idiots think it’s possible to coerce sincerity?

    What is the worth of an insincere “pledge”? About the same as a confession made because of torture, I’d say.

  12. TerryLF, you cannot reason with people who have chosen to live a life free of reason and logic and truth and facts and reality. They come back with the ridiculous excuse or “reason” of Faith. So tell them that faith is ONLY a thought and that a thought has no atomic mass so therefore it is useless in the real world. And besides Terry they live in a fantasy world and it makes their stunted little minds happy and warm and fuzzy they don’t have the courage to face the world of reality.

  13. It amazes me that people use the flag and this pledge to define love of country but turn a blind eye when their corporate masters shred the constitution. Its a miracle

  14. They believe that the Earth is the only planet where god created life. If there is life elsewhere, their whole religion is wrong (which it is). He said he would rather not know if his religion is a lie basically.

  15. “Under God” was put in the pledge in 1954. It was to show Russia that we are God fearing I guess. It should never have been put there. God is God. If you believe in Him, he’s there with you 24/7. It’s not our government’s place to make God be in the pledge. Unfortunatley too many misguided citizens of our great nation think their religion is our government.

  16. It is our right to protest and folks like you really need to learn exactly what our country is truly about. It’s not about your religion. Love God, follow your religion and leave the rest of us alone. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    As for protesting, you might not agree with the issue, but you damn well should stand up for the right to protest.

  17. “God created man in his image.”
    -The most arrogant statement ever made?

    And to the TeaBaggers who profess to love the Constitution…how many times, exactly, does the word “god” appear in the the Constitution?
    Yeah, that’s right…zero.

    The US is a secular nation. Period.

  18. Citizens of the US who burn the flag for reasons of protest of its actions are far less unpatriotic than those who hide behind the flag and yell FREEDOM as they trample all over the Constitutional rights of others or attempt to shove their religious beliefs down others’ throats.

  19. So its wrong to make a student stand for the pledge.. But its ok to take a bible from a student who chooses to read it during lunch?? If you want eguality for non-believers then believers should expect the same treatment.

  20. Burning a flag (a symbol) is a legal and acceptable form of protest when our own government does not act in the best interests of our country.

  21. That is the reason why you can’t have a discussion with someone like Susan, they just make s**t up to fit the situation.

  22. It is truly amazing how many of their horror stories come from emails or Facebook postings, and how few come reputable news services. I’ve gotten some of those emails too, and it’s a hoot. Track the stories down and they lead nowhere. Sort of like Susan’s argument.

  23. You obviously understood it, otherwise you could not have pin pointed any errors in the format. If all you got from the article was the fleeting feeling of superiority in being able to point out a few grammatical issues, then you missed the entire point of the article. Content is everything … and you understood that. Try reading for content instead of being obsessive about printing errors.

  24. I remember reciting the pledge in school when I was growing up. It was something we had to memorize so we could put our hands over our hearts and say it. The way I remember it is, we were made to do it every day!!! Kids didn’t think about it one way or another back then!

  25. In a far less serious situation, I encountered similar thinking. Back in the 60’s and 70’s I owned Corvairs and autocrossed (raced) them very successfully.

    I had a relative, when admiring (I hope) the trophies I had accumulated with them, grudgingly admitted, “I guess they’d be pretty good cars if they’d put the engine in front like god intended them to be.”

  26. When did that ever happen? Do you have independently verifiable sources or are you simple another christian liar?

  27. Lets put a little perspective on the issue.
    In my youth FDR was was my President from birth to age 12 or so. It was very patriotic times as he led this country out of the deep Depression and into WW2. Every thing I learned had to do with sharing and getting peoples lives back together and honoring our military through War’s. We collected and gave and shared and etc. When I stood in class and said the Allegiance (no mention of God) to my Country it was heartfelt and I was proud to be an American. I wish I could feel all that again but the Christians have taken all that away and replaced it with nonsense, hate, division etc.
    Yes I would call my self a Christian with a brain who follows her own heart and does not follow blindly as so many today. I miss feeling that pride and love of country that the biggots of the world have taken away..To bad more of you did not experience the world as Idid.

  28. I ran into bigotry at an early age. I refuse to say the so-called Lord’s prayer because I was not a Christian.

    The teacher told me that everyone was a Christian or a Communist, which one was I?

    “Neither,” I replied, “and you are crazy if you believe that.” So off to the principal’s office who told me to sit while she grabbed that “teacher.”

    The principal asked her if she had said what she said. Very snootly she said yes. “Are you not aware of the other religions in this country?” The teacher then cut her own throat by saying that she did not teach Communists and since I was not a Christian, I had to be a Communist.

    The teacher was immediately put on indefinite suspension and was told to get her stuff and leave the school NOW!

    I loved that principal, she was one wonderful woman. I still miss her these 60 years later.

  29. I was four when FDR died.

    Now I’m “old.” When I do say the pledge, I end it this way “…with liberty and justice for those who can afford it.”

    I don’t like to lie.

  30. I believe you misunderstood the post. He was not referencing the US FLAG. He clearly stated the “religious flag”. Meaning of course, any adherence to a religious belief. Do you equate the US Flag and religious belief as being one entity? If you do, you are just part of the whole problem.

  31. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but do say…if you don’t believe in God…who made this entire earth as well as the universe? Did it just boom and poof itself together? I mean…when America is faced with the troubles it’s facing now…who do people turn to if it is not God? Man?

    America isn’t in a good place right now to be honest, and its going to take no body but God to set it back on the path it was. We once were a Christian Nation, hence how back in the day, we really became the top of the line, life of the party, big and bad, Chief Country in the world. We won both the World Wars as well as several others, but guess who everyone was praying to during those troubling times as well as the Great Depression…God.

    He’s in our pledge, our dollars, heck, he’s even on our coins! It’s this Nation who turned it’s back on him, and is trying to exclude him and disregard his law, which is putting America in grave danger!

    So God Bless America….The End.

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