AtheismEducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Liberty and Justice for All

Yesterday Librarienne posted a link in the Tuesday Required Readings about the American Humanist Association launching a campaign to encourage people to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance until the phrase “under God” is removed.  This is a purely academic issue for the vast majority of American citizens.  Beyond school I cannot think of a place where The Pledge of Allegiance is recited (please feel free to correct me if I am wrong), but for the teachers and students who are atheist this is a daily point of conscientious objection.

For those of you not in the know the Pledge of Allegiance was published in September of 1892 by The Youth’s Companion and was written by Francis Bellamy.  Apparently Bellamy hoped that the pledge would be used by any citizen of any country.  The original pledge was this:

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.

In 1954 in response to the communist threat the words “under God” were added by the U.S. Congress.

The current pledge is:

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.

Every morning the announcements start in homeroom with the words, “Please stand … I pledge allegiance to the flag….”

I have had a good number of years to think about these words.  Words mean a great deal to me.  I am an American.  I am the daughter and granddaughter of service men and women.  I stand, hand on my heart, but I cannot say the words.  I am loyal and committed to my country, especially to working toward the dreams of “liberty and justice” for all, but god no longer holds a place in my heart.

One year my homeroom was full of non-christian immigrants or the children of non-christian immigrants.  Granted there were a few Anglos in the room, but most were not.  As the year progressed and the culture of the room was established I found myself, the person who stands silent hand on her heart, having to say, “You don’t need to say it, you don’t need to stand, but it is considered respectful of others to at the very least remain quiet”

I know logically that my America is not everyone’s America, but the reality of the situation hit me then, and I want the Pledge to change.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a national wish.  It is a wish for Liberty and Justice for ALL people regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic class.  I want god to be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance so that every day I can wish for liberty and justice for all people of the world, and maybe if every child in the United States wishes for it it will become a reality.

How do you feel about the Pledge of Allegiance?  DO you believe in it?  Do you say?  Why?  If you are not in America how does your school start its day?  

Featured image Earth day Flag, Planet Earth, Waving Wind Blowing by Beverly

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Jennifer teaches science in a public school in Pennsylvania. She lives there with her husband and two dogs.


  1. September 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm —

    I’m an atheist, but this is one issue that quite frankly I don’t care much about. I must have recited the full pledge 1000 times in school. Neither “under God” nor “In God we trust” on my money has ever produced the slightest religious epiphany in me, or I daresay, anyone else on the planet. These, plus the national anthem played at every sporting event or drop of a hat, have rendered all of them to be meaningless due mindless repetition. The pledge is a ritual chant before we get on to the business of the day. Who listens to the national anthem these days except to see if the singer forgets the words or butchers the high notes? The only meaning that gets imparted to “under God” is when secular groups want to have such phrases removed. To me, it is a needless provocation over a non-issue. Indeed, I guess I’ve been surprised that religious people are not agitating to have under God removed because it so devalues the essence of why religion might ever be important. In closing, here’s a short list of God-dy things that annoy much more.

    Every politician when giving a major speech has to somehow invoke God’s grace or blessings.

    People who have survived any natural or manmade disaster, thanking God for sparing them. Really? And all those who weren’t ‘spared’?

    Religious leaders blaming selfsame disasters on God’s wrath because of homosexuals, women controlling their own reproduction, or not enough people attending their church.

    No team ever winning a sporting event without having God helping them. I guess the devil is just lousy at sports.

    If a meteorite flattens my house, my insurance company is off the hook, because that was an “Act of God”.

    And a very early, but also a very, very secular Merry Christmas to all!

    • September 10, 2014 at 8:48 pm —

      It is interesting to me that we are so opposite. I can laugh off the hypocrisy of other people, their self delusions mean nothing to me. Oh and you should get a new homeowners policy. Mine says that falling objects, trees, meteorites, volcanic eruptions, falling air planes, etc are covered for personal property damage. There is no act of god listed.

      On a more serious note: Words have a meaning to me, and the words I say reflect my beliefs. In the process of me becoming an atheist I had to actively reject Roman Catholicism, and it was not a quick process, and this aversion I have to “under god” might be a remnant of my up-bringing. I was taught from a very early age that pledges and oaths had meaning. Not a year went by where we did not study a martyr who died for their belief. Quite a few of the stories centered around a christian refusing to take some oath that proclaimed that the roman emperor a god. Now I am unsure of the history in those stories, but I am quite sure of the lesson I learned. A good person does not say an oath or a pledge that is against their own personal beliefs.

      Flash forward to the modern public school. An atheist child or a polytheistic child by the time they graduate 12 grade has heard that “under god” every day of their 13 years of schooling, which comes to at least 2,000 times. Many of them say the pledge everyday and are taught by it, just as you implied, that words are meaningless. Granted the lesson that everyone lies is an important lesson all children need to learn, but is not one I wish to be a part of.

      The pledge of allegiance being taught and recited in a publicly funded school is the a violation of the 1st amendment. The flag code in which the pledge is found is a federal law. Granted the supreme court already said that the flag code is unenforceable, but we are talking about a population of culturally/ ethnically minority children and as such I believe that they they deserve the right to go to a publicly funded secular school and not have to deal with the religious overtones of the morning ritual chant.

  2. September 11, 2014 at 12:24 am —

    I am German and the whole thing is absolutely baffling and weird to me. School starts by saying Good Morning to the teacher and then having lessons. We never even sung our national anthem or anything – most people only know the first two lines of that anyway and only because of soccer, I sometimes suspect.

    • September 11, 2014 at 1:34 am —

      I suspect that every country gets things embedded into their culture that become absolutely resistant to change, even when they are counterproductive and make no logical sense. In America, it seems impossible to replace dollar bills with more economical coins, or to get rid of the penny. And then there is the resistance to the metric system… I’m sure there are things that almost all Germans do that make absolutely no sense to the rest of the world. In a way this the point of my response to Jennifer. Under God in the pledge has become to most of us (wildly extrapolating from my own experience!) to have as much religious significance as hearing “God bless you” after someone sneezes. But trying to change the pledge is in a weird way like trying to change something that is a shared American experience. Christianity used to be far more explicit and in your face in schools. For example, when I was a young kid in public schools, the 10 commandments prominently hung in many a classroom, and teachers and principals would often lead us in a morning Christian prayer. Now that was oppressive (nor did they ever get us to be better behaved)! I glad we’ve come along to where such things are very rare, and when they still do crop up, they are vigorously opposed.

  3. September 11, 2014 at 8:02 am —

    I find the whole pledge as recited by small children creepy. It’s a loyalty oath required before children can really grasp what it means. I agree some of the ideals espoused are lofty and should be aspired to, but the whole thing should not be a required daily recitation with or without the religion. At some point, after children can really get what they are pledging they may be allowed to say it as they wish.

    As for focusing on the under god part, this is the culture war. I do not find the public fight to remove that phrase a needless distraction especially as religiosity is becoming more and more “popular” at least from my perspective. Forcing children to pledge to gods of any stripe is unconstitutional and is worthy of opposition. The constant injection of the mention of gods as Peter points out should be countered actively. It begins with that daily reminder that almost all children perform, so nip it in the bud. Why should we allow this to be “normal” and pretend it’s ok?

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