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Compelling your pledge of allegiance to a flag…

Guest blog by Aron’s wife.

And to a Republic for which the flag stands
Which people insist is one nation under God
Who is for most people mutually exclusive

As a public school teacher I am required by the state to lead the pledge every school day. As an American atheist, this daily pledge is a reminder that however indivisible our country pledges it is; nothing divides a people like religion. Although it irks me to lead the pledge, I am mandated to do it, and it wouldn’t accomplish anything other than losing my job not to do it. The good I do every day in my science classroom far outweighs the daily dings to my conscience. So, I like most of the people the pledge excludes, have become pragmatic about pledging to a nation under God. After all I am being compelled to violate the Constitution by my own government.

In fact ,the Christian Evangelicals of my state of Texas have become so fond of reminding other people that everybody is under their God (you know, Yahweh) that the overwhelming majority of lawmakers voted to put the word “under God” into the Texas pledge in 2007 as well. So no one has any illusions they can pray to any other God, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Debbie Riddle R-Tomball said…

“Since the time of the founding of the United States through modern times, the presence and influence of God has been intrinsically associated with the political and social culture of the United States … (the bill) will acknowledge our Judeo-Christian heritage by placing the words ‘under God’ in the state pledge.”

So since 2007, non-christian schoolchildren, teachers, and administrators have been compelled to pledge to the Judeo-Christian God twice every school day. Just in case any of us still harbored any lingering doubts about which God the state of Texas is under our state representatives voted a few months ago to put it on our license plates.

 

One nation under Jesus

A portion of the proceeds benefit a group called the “Glory Gang”, who work with disadvantaged children of Nacogdoches county. One of the board members feels…

“The message of the Calvary Hill plate is the message that we give to the children we work with:  there is hope,” said Matt Rocco, Glory Gang board member. “We believe the new plate will appeal to a lot of Texans who believe as we do and who will like knowing that sharing a Christian message from their cars will also help kids in need.”

For a people apparently concerned with the message we send to schoolchildren, you would think the state’s lawmakers, voters, and service organizations would know something about this country’s history of religious persecution. During Thanksgiving we are reminded of the Pilgrim Puritan’s providence in founding a colony to escape religious persecution in England. Rep. Riddle was probably alluding to this and other stories of the founding of our country when she sponsored the bill to put “under God” in the state pledge. It is true the Pilgrims founded a colony based on their wish to escape from religious persecution. However the persecution came from the Church of England who also worshiped the Judeo-Christian God. To make matters worse, no sooner had they set up their own government that they began persecuting other Christians-the Quakers.

Thomas Jefferson was keenly aware of the need for separation of Church and state not only to protect citizens from a theocratic government like England, but also to keep the peace between Christian sects. In 1659, Puritan dominated Virginia started passing anti-Quaker laws that banished them from their home colony and for a few capital punishment. Jefferson observed…

“…If no capital execution took place here, as did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or the spirit of the legislature.”

So all of the pledging we do in schools to the ruling, religious class’s God goes actually against the political and social culture the founding fathers attempted to establish. Of course, they won’t see it from that perspective. The separation of church and state actually protects Christians from any other religious sect including different Christian ones coming into power and compelling them to pledge allegiance to their God.

History and Constitution aside the most compelling reasons to defend the separation of state are human ones. Once, I had an opportunity to defend a Christian from another Christian over the pledge in my own classroom. A former colleague brought in a mutual student of ours, and demanded to know why she didn’t say the pledge. She normally did the pledge in my classroom, but the schedule was different that day. She tried to explain that she was a Jehovah’s Witness and they believed pledging to a flag or anything other than God was idol worship. In his outrage, he heard none of the explanation, he asked her if she knew that this country was founded on God as if he wasn’t even talking to another Christian.

As an atheist, I could have cut them both off by saying, neither of you have any evidence to believe there is a God in the first place. However, I chose instead to support this child’s religious freedom, and told her to get a note from her parents excusing her from the pledge. She quickly got a note excusing her from the pledge, and the harassment about her religious beliefs stopped. If only the rest of us could get a note to excuse us from the state sponsored harassment of our religious beliefs during the pledge as well. And too, if it were up to most secularists this child would have never been harassed in the first place.

 

Comments

  1. julian says

    If only the rest of us could get a note to excuse us from the state sponsored harassment of our religious beliefs during the pledge as well.

    If only…

    And too, if it were up to most secularists this child would have never been harassed in the first place.

    Aye

    It may be a cliche by now but freedom of religion requires freedom from religion (as your husband points out in his videos)

    A government mandate to observe a religious practice by default excludes any religious expression that either objects to that action or considers it blasphemous.

    • Iggy's Pal says

      Has Aron changed the liner on that hat yet? JEBUS! It must smell worse than a dead babies coffin by now!

  2. says

    I can’t do it…

    I remember Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, graduation day ceremony. At the practice for my platoon they pulled a “let us pray” thing and 60 or so heads all snapped down at once, except mine. A whole mess of people got in my face and screamed at me, but I refused to budge on the issue. I don’t bow my head or pledge to anything that I don’t believe in. Eventually they gave up, and come graduation day they had their little prayer and I looked around and my head was the only one raised up and looking around, and I’m very much cool with that.

    • says

      Interesting, Joe. At my brother’s Air Force retirement ceremony the Chaplain said, “if it is your tradition, please bow your head and join me in prayer.” It wasn’t, so I didn’t.

    • julian says

      YUT!

      I can imagine the bullshit that earned you. Especially as a recruit. Keep on motivating.

  3. says

    My husband is also the Texas State Director for American Atheists, so may be he should mention the pledge and licence plate issues to Dave Silverman.

    • JustKat says

      I live in southeast Texas – Beaumont, specifically. I’m surrounded by Christians.

      My boss made a point during a company gathering to read something he pulled from the internet about how this is a Christian nation founded on Christian beliefs, blah, blah – basically a re-writing of history.

      I am constantly amazed by the ridiculous things I hear around here…

  4. Mattir says

    I rather like the pledge, written as it was by an evil socialist. I use it as a chance to think about what I’ve done lately to support liberty and justice for all. Usually the conclusion I come to is that I could do more – sigh.

    I leave out the under god part and am working hard to figure out how to keep my repetition going so that I’m out of phase with the rest of the speakers, but that’s really hard to do.

    • says

      There are few reasons I don’t attempt a conscientious objection, and not lead the pledge for religious reasons. I don’t want to model disobedience to middle schoolers, who may not be mature enough to differentiate civil disobedience with classroom disobedience. Also, I don’t want it negatively affecting my evaluations. Being a science teacher and supporting my family are important as well.

      I used to be able to say the pledge more proudly, but then they added it to the Texas pledge too.

      • rogue74656 says

        Came to this blog after TAM and briefly speaking to your husband. Wish I could have spoken to you…maybe I did and didn’t know it.

        I am an Oklahoma Science teacher. High School. We also do the pledge. It is led by the office over the intercom, and I usually arrange to be busy during that time. IF I say it, I leave out “Under God”

        Only been asked about it by students twice. I explained it was a 1950’s addition and was reciting the ORIGINAL pledge..and encouraged them to go look it up for themselves…

    • Therealhellkitty says

      The way to stay in sync is to say “watermelons” three or four times
      Will do it.

  5. jono4175 says

    I was 6 when I went to upstate New York, following my Dad’s sabbatical. It was a good time, I liked ice-hockey and snow and New York liked my Aussie accent and colour-blindness. After 12 months, as we were making one last holiday before returning to Australia, I asked my mom:

    Why are they [Americans] always under guard?

  6. F says

    So, this instructor monitors students to see if they say the Pledge? And wants to get in your face over it, like you were responsible for enforcing the loyalty oath and were to be held accountable?

    Not that surprising, really, yet I still find it astonishing when people are like this.

    • says

      Yes he did. I don’t know how often this kind of Christian intimidation by teachers goes on in schools over the pledge. She was lucky I was involved, because often students don’t know their rights. The other instructor was expecting me to get on to her about it too. He was surprised when I didn’t.

      • N. Nescio says

        I got it constantly in highschool.

        After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, my school went full-on ‘makeshift patriot’ and jammed flags into every classroom, and somehow convinced the one student of arab descent out of ~2,500 mostly white kids to daily lead the entire school via intercom in the pledge of allegiance, which was typically followed up by the playing of a corny song like “God Bless the USA” or “God Bless America” or on rare occasions, the National Anthem (which I do NOT find to be corny).

        So when it was time to stand and pledge to one nation under God, I remained seated. I didn’t attempt to disrupt by reciting the original, un-tampered with version, nor did I use the traditional Bellamy salute. I simply sat quietly and refused to participate.

        A handful of my teachers questioned me about this, and were understanding of my explanation that I did not want to participate in a largely empty jingoistic ritual that was being used to cheer on a headlong rush into war as well as pledge allegiance to a nation under a non-existent magical being. They either left me alone or actively supported me when the more loud-mouthed students, many of whom had enlisted in the armed services in the weeks following the attacks, attempted to make it into a controversy.

        However, most of my teachers openly harassed me over this. I was repeatedly sent to the principals’ offices, given a couple of after-school detentions (which I gave written refusal to attend), and was continually accused during class lesson time of being an atheist, a communist, an anti-patriot, and “providing aid and comfort to terrorists”. On a few occasions I walked out of class and sent *myself* to the principal’s office, explaining it was a means of escaping official harassment.

        Bringing in printouts of relevant Supreme Court decisions had an impact on some of the teachers who were willing to listen to reasoned argument, but was largely ignored by most. Contacting the ACLU and getting *them* to send a letter to the school administration about the cost of settling an open-and-shut lawsuit sure helped.

        • says

          You were in the right, but you still had to put up with harassment from people who were wrong. That they didn’t know they were wrong despite your giving reasons from history why they were wrong is exactly what irks me.

          • N. Nescio says

            What got to me was that the teachers who continued to make an issue of my sitting in silence knew full well that the law wasn’t on their side. They just didn’t give a shit about the law.

            Those teachers that refused to listen to reason, every last one of them, employed one form or other of “shut up, that’s why” as a means of counter-argument, which frequently ended with “you’re disrupting my class – go to the principal’s office”.

            It was incredibly frustrating having to waste time I should have been using for my education to instead argue with the principals that sitting quietly was a disruption only if the teacher chose to loudly accuse me of treason and abuse their disciplinary authority as a means of silencing rebuttal.

            I can’t even begin to describe how helpful the ACLU was when I contacted them, and how grateful I still am for their assistance. If they had not contacted the school district administration I would have had to deal with harassment to the degree that I probably would have dropped out of school.

            For every lawsuit they actually have to file, there’s probably quite a lot of kids they help simply by sending a “what you’re doing is illegal and you’d better back off” letter. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

          • Za-zen says

            Good job, the more this is done the better, though i fully understand kids going along and keeping their heads down just to get their grades and get out of sxhool.

            Where i come from we don’t have a pledge, but i attended a convent school, by highlight came when i informed the yeacher i wasn’t attending the school mass, when asked why i told her i wasn’t a catholic. She informed me i was at a catholic school, my retort to which was, and mass isn’t a class.

            I think i was lucky that the teacher involved liked me, knew i was a smart ass who enjoyed poking holes for the sake of it, and in all likelihood i think she was an atheist herself, though she didn’t say it, she was just that smart ass type of person who couldn’t be religious even if they tried becuase of the absurdity of it all.

  7. Samsaptaka says

    I’m a math teacher in a Texas high school (small-town, 80% economically disadvantaged, highly religious). I just leave out “under God” in both pledges every morning as we chant along with the PA system. Occasionally, a student will ask me what my religion is and I’ll tell them, “I don’t have one.” It’s pretty well known what my stance is among those students and other teachers who care to know. I have no idea if this will ever bite me in the rear, but nobody’s ever given me a directive about leading the pledge, and it’s not in any contract I signed. (Your point about not modeling disobedience is a valid one. I teach mostly 11th graders and seniors, so I’m paddling a slightly different canoe.)

    That said, I was one of the staff who strongly supported a student’s right to lead a prayer meeting before the first bell each morning this past year. No school buildings were used, no school officials attended, etc. (at least, not after someone in the administration actually talked to a lawyer…). I think I surprised a bunch of people with that one. Then again, I think that you did exactly the right thing with the Jehovah’s Witness student and the other teacher.

  8. Norman Thorsen says

    Back in the Dark Ages (high school in the ’60s) I refused to stand, salute, and say the pledge. I don’t recall ever getting any flack for it.
    AFAIK, while the school administration may be authorized to compel teachers and staff, they have no such authority over the students. The students free speech rights trump the school rules.

  9. RealSpace says

    A court case here in Florida agreed with a Miami student’s refusal to stand and recite the Pledge as long as he didn’t disrupt the rest of the class in doing so. Last year my son got in trouble at school for not standing and reciting the Pledge in his 8th grade class. I notified the school that he had that right and that they did NOT have the right to punish him for his decision. I cited the court case and there was no more problem.
    I was kind of astonished to discover that reciting the Pledge was a state law in the first place. I always said the Pledge in school and not only didn’t think anything about it, I didn’t pay any attention the the words. I think most kid ignore the recitation as a daily activity which takes thirty seconds. I never felt it was a contract or anything, just a way of saying “Happy to be an American”. The God part bothered me only slightly as I thought it was all just for show in the first place.

  10. skepticalmath says

    This “Judeo-Christian” nonsense pisses me off.

    They mean Christian. They say “Judeo-Christian” out of (I suppose) either some weird acknowledgement that Christianity arose out of Judaism, or an attempt to create some kind of illusion of diversity or what-have-you.

    But they mean Christian. And the folks who are all up in arms over our “Judeo”-Christian nation are, in my experience, the same people who will say to my face that Teh Jews control the banks, the media, the world, the universe, etc.

    Bah.

    • N. Nescio says

      The ‘Judeo’ in ‘Judeo-Christian’ was added in the 1980s when the ADL pointed out to the Religious Right/Moral Majority types that were constantly going on about “our Christian heritage” that they were trying to claim the historic legitimacy of Judaism for their own while at the same time claiming the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.

  11. longstreet63 says

    Interesting about the Texas plates.
    I come from Indiana, where we have long had, and won the court case over “In God We Trust” on our plates (Idiot plates, as they are often known, since they provide a warning that the driver is an inconsiderate jerk who may suddeenly cut you off. So that’s useful).
    Thing is, they only got away with it by claiming that as it is the national motto, it is allowed as ‘ceremonial deism’.
    But your Texas plates are NOT showing the national motto, but a statement confined to your state.
    Which means that a new law suit could be filed.
    These people are never satisfied with their fake ‘ceremonial deism’ victories. They have to keep pushing.
    It’s clear to anyone that putting these on plates is specifically about exclusion.

  12. says

    Do you also have to do the salute when you do the pledge? Because that was a pretty darned cool salute until got tagged with some bad “framing”…

  13. greg says

    I teach in reddening (sp) blue state. I do not do the pledge at all. Only one time has a student asked if we should do the pledge at the beginning of the class. I responded that they were welcome to recite it if they wanted to and I would wait untill they were finished to start the lecture. They didn’t.
    Blind patriotism is a dangerous game and I refuse to be a part of it.

    • says

      They play the Pledge over the announcements here, so you can’t help but make an issue out of it if you don’t do it.

  14. says

    I understand being intimidated, especially in economically hard times and on a teacher’s salary. If bravely standing on principle was easy, it wouldn’t be brave. I’m still hiding behind a pseudonym because I’m worried that potential employers could type my real name into a search engine and use my atheism as an excuse to pass me over.

    On the pledge specifically, one thing that outrages me is when people try to get me to shut up about it by saying that it’s insignificant, that we’re treading on people’s tender emotions, and thus making enemies over nothing. If it’s so insignificant, why does it provoke so much outrage when we seek to correct it? If our opponents won’t compromise on such a trivial issue, what possible hope could we have on bigger issues?

    • says

      The social pressure to conform is an issue a lot of people ignore when they say that arguing over the pledge is trivial and that students can be excused with a parent note. If it is so trivial, why are objectors publicly condemned by society and politicians? Why are some atheists afraid of being public for fear of being discriminated against?

  15. Kevin says

    I wonder what the parents of non-citizen students think of having their kids be forced to pledge allegiance to a foreign power (the US).

    Are there no kids whose Indian parents are here on a work visa and who are not citizens? No Chinese kids? No Russians? Are the Texas public schools 100% filled with 100% kids who are citizens of the US?

    Seems to me quite an unreasonable request. If I were in France and there was such a thing as a French pledge of allegiance, I wouldn’t participate. Nor would I expect my children to if they were attending French public schools.

    Isn’t it time we got rid of this whole thing altogether?

    • says

      And that’s another point of general rage: Jingoist culture.

      Anyone who doesn’t wear their Americanness on their sleeves is a dirty commie spy. Loyalty to America has been fetishized while being made more superficial. The Pledge is treated like a sacred incantation that can’t be altered (even though “under god” is an alteration) lest we attract bad juju. People keep trying to ban flag burning as if they fear that sympathetic magic will cause the nation as a whole to burn whenever someone wishes to punctuate government criticism. “In god we trust” is treated like a magical ward to keep commie atheist spies from using money to buy things and undermine the economy.

      I think it’s safe to say the Red Scare continues to this day.

      • says

        Of course, the irony of this being a Texas-based post is not lost on me.

        The fact that Texas was one of the Confederate States, and the pledge was partly in response to the Civil War and all that.

  16. L.Long says

    Stated…Pilgrim Puritan’s providence in founding a colony to escape religious persecution in England…..
    BS!!! They came here because the other countries would not put up with their bigotry and how they tried putting their BS onto everyone else.

    When I choose to I say….

    I Pledge allegiance to the Constitution and Bill of Rights
    and to the republic that stands thru them!
    One nation, indivisible…sort of
    with liberty and justice for all…
    eventually.

    and I say all the words and wait for someone to comment.
    Most are too ‘shy’. Just side ways looks.

    • says

      Despite their own prejudices, the Puritans were subjected to branding, having their ears cropped, and execution by the Church of England. Which makes it even more confusing why if given religious freedom, they chose to use the same persecution tactics on the Quakers.

      • Thorne says

        Because it’s only persecution when it’s done to YOU, not when you do it to someone else. Just ask the American Christians!

      • petejohn says

        I think what it comes down to (based on my limited reading about Puritan New England, mostly from Philbrick’s Mayflower, Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, and various scholarly history journal articles I’ve long since forgotten) is that the Puritans didn’t exactly come for religious freedom as we would define it. They came to have the space and the ability to practice their faith as a community. If one weren’t willing to practice faith in a manner consistent with the community, then one wasn’t part of the community and was therefore a threat. He or she should be killed or forced out because he or she threatened the community’s freedom, not the freedom of individuals.

        It’s still a pretty messed up idea though.

  17. otrame says

    I don’t know how often this kind of Christian intimidation by teachers goes on in schools over the pledge. She was lucky I was involved, because often students don’t know their rights. The other instructor was expecting me to get on to her about it too. He was surprised when I didn’t.

    About 20 years ago, here in San Antonio, I got a call from the principal of my son’s middle school. It seemed that a substitute teacher had noticed that my son did not say the pledge and hassled him about it. At one point, she said, “Maybe you should just move to Russia” and he said, “In Russia they would make me say it”. She sent him to the principal.

    Fortunately, the principal knew was the law was and was calling to assure me that the teacher was wrong and had been counseled about it.

    Personally, I used to just remain silent during the under god part, but lately I’ve decided my kid was right. I will not pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth or to the republic for which it stands. Not until the “liberty and justice for all” is a lot closer to the truth.

    • Ysanne says

      I went to school in socialist Hungary, and we didn’t take any pledges whatsoever in class — collective murmuring was seen as cheap propaganda.
      Pretty ironic, considering the usual Eastern-bloc levels of propaganda and freedom.

  18. bubba707 says

    Personally, I subscribe to the idea put forth by Oscar Wilde about flags. They serve the same purpose as signs in vacant lots around London in the 19th century, “rubbish may be shot here”.

    • asmilewithoutacat says

      Almost certain that was Ambrose Bierce in the Devil’s Dictionary. A nitpicky point, I suppose, but I do love Bierce.

  19. Corvus illustris says

    The surprising part of the anecdote about the little Jehovah’s Witnesses kid is that her parents hadn’t told her about the famous 1943 Supreme Court case (usually called Barnette) in which the Jehovah’s Witnesses freed all of us from compulsory flag-worship ceremonies. That case is as famous as the Korematsu case is infamous (deep bow in the direction of the grave of Frank Murphy, the eloquent dissenter). It’s really surprising that school administrators don’t know about it (no, it isn’t).

  20. petejohn says

    Personally the rabidness with which some cling to the Pledge as currently (but not originally) written is baffling. If you need to force kids to stare at a flag and mechanically mutter a few words to maintain a healthy amount of patriotism and camaraderie amongst citizens, then it’s probably time to make some significant changes to the way things are done.

  21. Robert says

    I’m Dutch, but I spent some years in a US high school. The first time my class did the pledge, I thought “what on earth is this?!?” nothing similar exists where I came from. I barely knew the language so I had no clue what was going on. But peer pressure is a strange thing, and I stood and tried to mumble along with the rest of the class while learning the words.

    The moment I actually realized what I was saying I decided for myself that while I would stand in respect of the flag of the country where I was staying at that moment, I would not say the words, nor put my hand over my heart and ‘pretend pledge’. I’d occasionally get an odd look from a teacher, but nobody ever hassled me about it (luckily… I was pretty timid and shy at that age, I’m not sure if I could have stood my ground.)

    My main objection to the whole pledge isn’t even the ‘under god’ part, but the fact that at the age that kids start saying the pledge, they probably do not even know what allegiance means. Furthermore, in situations where there are foreign students in the school, language problems and group pressure actually result in a situation where these students are forced to pledge to a (for them) foreign flag, which I’m certain must break a international law or two.

    • Corvus illustris says

      As a foreigner and non-immigrant, you probably could have been excused from the silly ceremony if you had asked to be. I went to school in a state contiguous to Canada and the Canadian kids were excused (but this was so long ago that “under god” had not been inserted–I’m still not sure where it goes).

      • petejohn says

        “…And to the republic for which it stands one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        Personally I think “one nation, indivisible” makes a lot more sense and sounds better anyway. “Under God” feels rather tacky, besides completely violating the whole “freedom of religion” thing.

    • Rich Woods says

      I do the same with regard to other countries’ national anthems. If I’m at an international sporting event or the like then I stand to show respect for my host’s (or guests’) anthem, but I would never attempt to sing the ones I know or emulate any associated action such as placing my hand over my heart (Bellamy salutes are definitely out!).

      Then again, my country doesn’t have a national anthem but a national dirge, whose four-word title contains two words representing ideas I strongly disagree with. In contrast to that abomination it’s an absolute pleasure to listen to people sing something lively (eg Fratelli d’Italia) and meaningful (eg La Marseillaise).

      • Corvus illustris says

        For lively and meaningful both, try the Greek “Hymn to Freedom.” You could sing it regardless of your nationality: it only mentions Greeks once (in the first stanza), and hey, they did invent dimokratia.

  22. Bubba says

    A large part of the problem is most of the people pushing for mandatory recitation of the pledge have no idea what patriotism really is in the first place. It certaibnly isn’t the blind obedience they presume it to be and it isn’t empty public gestures like reciting the pledge.

    • petejohn says

      What you said. I’ve always thought that patriotism meant willingness to stand up for what is best about a particular chunk of land known as a nation-state, while fighting against what is worst about it, all to ensure that future citizens of that chunk of land live good lives when it’s their turn to lead them. But evidently it’s supposed to mean

      1. Get excited when the US goes to war and cheer on the death of our enemies

      2. Yell “Murika!” regularly

      3. Hang American flags everywhere and pledge my undying allegiance to them… Not to the founding principles or to the people or to the children of that flag’s nation… to the flag itself.

      4. Shooting things

      etc., etc., etc…

      • bubba707 says

        I think you’ll find most of those people are what used to be called sunshine patriots. They’ve never fired a shot in defense of the nation, most never served in the military. When things might get a bit tough they’re the first to complain and the last to dig in to get a job done.

  23. Za-zen says

    I find Compulsory pledging disgusting. Especially in the case of children. I’m not only refering to pledging god, but also country. It also diminishes the worth of any pledge or oath, as a forced oath is as much worth as toilet paper.

    The mundane repeat in order to condition children into loyalty is horrific.

    • bubba707 says

      I don’t think it conditions kids into loyalty, it conditions them into thinking it’s just more bullshit they had to do in school and destroys any meaning there should be in the pledge.

      • says

        True. As long as everyone treats the Pledge as meaningless, it will be regarded as such by most students.

        But then some people think about it, disagree with it, and decide not to say it, or to say it differently. This causes a lot of people to freak out and denounce the non-conformists as Communist spies trying to destroy Mom and Apple Pie. When the people who freak out are praised as true patriots, that kind of carries over the blind loyalty problem.

        Of course, mindlessly chanting and ignoring the issue wasn’t quite so harmless. It produced individuals who try to use that Red Scare subversion of the wall of separation as “evidence” that America was intended to be a fundamentalist theocracy. They thought about the Pledge, usually without knowing the history, and came to use it as emotional support for their agenda.

        • bubba707 says

          Well, my Moms apple pie should have been destroyed. *shudder* Anyway, I believe strongly that loyalty is a two way street and loyalty has to run in both directions. Years ago I realized our Government has no loyalty to we, the people, and therefore I refuse to give any loyalty to the Government. I haven’t recited the pledge in decades and likely never will again.

  24. Slaughter says

    Since we all say … the Pledge of Allegiance … the way we learned … in grammar school … it leaves some gaps … for you to say … under *no* god! … right after they … say “under god.”

    You might try that sometime. I have had several opportunities to do that but almost always refrained, because I did’t want to disrupt the proceedings (usually a Girl Scouts meeting). I did it once in a different setting. You can imagine the looks I got.
    Most people don’t realize that the words “under god” were added only in 1954.

    • bubba707 says

      Most of the god crap got dragged in during the McCarthy eraI was born it the same town that was home to Tailgunner Joe and they still have a bust of him in the courthouse. Most people don’t realize he didn’t really believe the crap he was shovelling, to him it was just self promotion. Today we have politicians doing exactly the same thing using god instead of communists.

      • Corvus illustris says

        It pains me to point out that (assuming my memory is correct–FWIW it agrees with Wikipedia) the resolution to insert “under god” was introduced in the House by a Michigan congressman. You win some (first English-speaking jurisdiction to abolish judicial homicide [except, for a while, for treason against Michigan--a subject for comic opera]) but you lose others.

        • bubba707 says

          Keep in mind none of that got off the ground back then without Joes approval. He was pretty powerful for awhile which was why Nixon was kissing his butt. That was a shameful period and we’re in another now. Seems to me the US has much more to be ashamed of than to be proud of.

          • Corvus illustris says

            This is ‘way off-thread, but you’re really giving McCarthy too much credit (blame?) for the US’s behavior in the early 1950s. He makes a convenient symbol, but there were lots of little McCarthys all over the place; they took great pleasure, in particular, in getting people in public service fired for being no farther left than most FDR Democrats. Every state legislature had its Un-American Activities committee. It was a shameful period I lived through, and we’re well into another–with bipartisan support.

  25. says

    Its hard to get teachers to stand up and oppose these things, I know. And yet its the teachers that have some standing in the issue.

    It seems that there are plenty of people standing up in the webosphere and making a fuss but many things in the real world are given a pass.

    Here in Australia we have had massive religious incursions in school while my daughter has been going through the school system. She is in her second last year now. I have had clashes over scripture classes and chaplains in public schools. They can’t threaten my job but they could have made life hell for my daughter. Fortunately it turns out that she is a “militant atheist” like her dad and gives as good as she gets.

    The US pledge is a hard one because it, in itself, causes no direct harm and does not get on Sean Faircloth’s top ten list. But its used to support and justify real harms. Its a politically powerful symbol and it tells a lie.

    • says

      Here in the U.S. and particularly in Texas, public education is under fire by Republicans. Texas cut education funding despite growth in enrollment for the 1st time ever. That trickles down to teachers. They are on our backs with a new 400 million dollar testing system used to assess your effectiveness. They cut our contracts so they we can be fired the same year if your principal gives you a bad evaluation.

      So no, I am not putting my family’s support on the line in a bad economy to make a show that will get me fired or indirectly fired, and won’t accomplish having the religious wording removed from the pledge. I can’t support my family with approval from other nonbelievers.

      I did support the student in the story’s right not to pledge despite the risk. Were it up to another teacher, she might not have had the same outcome.

  26. abb3w says

    Oddly, Minersville v Gobitis means that freedom of religious (non)exercise isn’t the reason you can stay silent. Rather, the WV SBoE v. Barnette that mostly overturned the result was on Freedom of Speech grounds. (Contrariwise, both were before the phrase “under God” was added.)

    As IAmNotALawyer, I’m not sure what the distinction might mean for teachers, rather than students. A bit of poking turns up the US district court case of Lane v. Owens, where Colorado was told by a judge that “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher, a student, a citizen, an administrator, or anyone else, it is beyond the power of the authority of government to compel the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance”.

    However, teachers usually have better windmills to be tilting at.

  27. magistramarla says

    I used to teach in a Texas high school. I simply left out the “under god” part and recited the pledge as it was originally written. Some of my brighter students noticed and began to emulate me. I taught Latin, so I taught my students the pledge in Latin (minus the “under god” part), and we often recited it that way. Administrators just smiled and nodded, since they didn’t have a clue – LOL.
    One year, I had an exchange student from Spain in my class. She asked to transfer into my first period class because a coach was harassing her for not reciting the pledge in his class. She was relieved that in my classroom, I simply ignored students who remained seated or remained silent during the pledge.
    I also ignored the “moment of silence”. I used it to quickly scan the room to take attendance, enter it into my computer, and thus was able to immediately begin my real job – teaching a lesson.

    • rogue74656 says

      We also have MoS at my school to “reflect, meditate, pray, or engage in any other silent activity.”

      And I recognize it and require silence.
      “The School Board has decided that we have a moment of silence, so we will be silent…reflect, meditate, pray, or doodle…but do it silently.”

      Students get one warning for the year…then I assign a detention.

      I am just surprised that none of my more smart ass students have not taken “any other” as a license….

  28. jakc says

    A mandatory pledge is coerced, and thus without meaning. It can only be binding if voluntary, not that there is any penalty for breaking this pledge. It’s a shame that the legislators who required the pledge missed the point that requiring it rends any meaning from the pledge. I am frequently in attendance at my state legislature which has picked up the bad habit of reciting the pledge daily. I do not join in. When a state legislator asked me why, I told him I had taken the pledge years before and hadn’t changed my mind, I saw no need to recite it daily. I think the JW’s are right in saying that the pledge violates the 10 Commandments, but consistency (or recognizing irony) are not things I expect from Republicans or conservative Christians. The very idea of a Christian nation ought to offend bible-believing Christians. That it doesn’t simply exposes their beliefs as fraudulent.

  29. subbie says

    If only the rest of us could get a note to excuse us from the state sponsored harassment of our religious beliefs during the pledge as well.

    We have one. It’s called the First Amendment. If only government officials would read and understand it.

  30. Hypatia's Daughter says

    #29 jakc

    The very idea of a Christian nation ought to offend bible-believing Christians.

    Very much, Yes!
    The OT was all about god’s creating a “great nation” out of his chosen people, based on his laws and their collective obedience to them.
    The NT is all about Jesus replacing these laws with the gift of personal salvation. You cannot save anyone, not family, friends or neighbours, but yourself.
    Yet, so many xtians seem to miss the point that Jesus’ sacrifice was supposed to get god out of the nation blessing business and into the individual blessing business.

  31. GeoJim says

    “Shut up, bitch! I’m dealing with the kid.” Wow. I noticed that you weren’t on TMSS this week…I do hope that exchange didn’t have anything to do with your absence.

  32. JSC_ltd says

    I pledge a region to Queen Frag
    And to her mighty state of hysteria
    And to the wee puppet for witch’s hands
    One Asian on the nod
    Invisible
    With little tea and just rice for all.

    h/t Bill Watterson.

  33. says

    In Indiana (a.k.a the Texas of the Midwest) we have a religious plate that’s one of two “standard” plates. It doesn’t have an added fee, and there is no charity involved. Meanwhile, they managed to change the rules to disallow a charity that supports gay teenagers. About half the vehicles in the university city where I live have these. When I registered my car the lady at the desk was surprised that I didn’t want one.

    http://ladyatheist.blogspot.com/2009/08/indiana-land-of-in-god-we-trust-on.html

  34. tle says

    I was born the year the pledge was changed, so learned it in it’s altered state. When I was in second or third grade, my father informed me that I wasn’t saying it the way he was taught, and I never used the “under god” part again. Sometimes I’d just pause and wait until the real pledge started again, sometimes I’d go ahead and finish before everyone else. At any rate, I haven’t recited it in 40 years, since the day I left high school. Seems that it’s something recited only by people associated with schools and some government officials at public meetings. Do they do this in the military, as well? That seems the only really appropriate setting for it.

  35. jakc says

    @Hypatia’s daughter
    Part of the reason we see so much fake American history from Christians is that it seems the only way to resolve the question of God or country. I have no problem choosing country over god, but Christians need to make the two the same in order to avoid the dilemma of choosing. It’s not a new phenomena; the same impulse is in Mormon theology.

  36. left0ver1under says

    Whenever I hear of mandatory pledges, I think of North Korea and other such dictatorships. How insecure is a country in its “greatness” that it forces participation in self-worship?

    If you can’t burn your own country’s flag and can’t refuse to praise it, it’s not a free country.

  37. Caravelle says

    I don’t get people who object to the “under God” part of the pledge but don’t object to the pledge as a whole.

    Pledging allegiance isn’t something you need to do everyday. And it isn’t something children too young to know what they’re doing should be expected to do. And they don’t know what they’re doing; I spent half of my 5th grade year in the US and recited the pledge along with everyone without thinking twice about it, and it’s only years later it occurred to me I’d been pledging allegiance to the flag of a foreign country. It apparently hadn’t occurred to anyone else either.

    If it’s meaningless, why do it ? And why complain about two extra meaningless words in it ?
    And if it’s meaningful, then WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IT.

    • says

      I believe I explained this in the article. It is mandated by my state. Also, it is played over the loud speakers, so it would be quite noticeable if I didn’t do it.

      • Caravelle says

        Sorry lilandra, of course I understand why you do it in practice (although I’d love to see the take on Christians who want “conscience clauses” for pharmacists on whether you should have to…). I was talking about approving of the pledge of allegiance, not just doing it. (and I was reacting more to one of the earlier comments than to your article per se)

        And as long as we’re on me being unclear, I went all-caps because that position really baffles me and I wanted to emphasize how absurd it seems to me. I didn’t mean it to come across as an attack and I hope it didn’t. If you did feel attacked then I’m really sorry.

  38. eleutheria says

    Sec. 3100.104. RECITING PLEDGE.
    If the pledge to the state flag is recited, each person who is present and:
    (1) not in uniform should: (A) face the state flag and stand at attention with the person’s right hand over the heart; (B) if wearing a head covering that is easy to remove, remove that head covering with the right hand and hold it at the person’s left shoulder, with the person’s hand over the heart; and (C) recite the pledge; or
    (2) in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and make the military salute.

    Wait, so you have to pledge allegiance? I thought there was a supreme court case that says school children can remain silent …
    I just don’t understand how this is law.

    That license plate is creepy. And it leaves no doubt that it’s the Christians’ Jesus-God and not the Jewish Yahweh-God. One Christian cross wasn’t enough either. They had to put 3, to explicitly remind us of a cross, rooted in the earth, with a human being tortured on it. (I mean, even if it were a generic Judeo-Christian god it would still be abhorrent, but it’s funny that they need to leave no doubt which god they’re referring to.)

    • says

      State law mandates we pledge. Students can be excused with a note from their parents. It can be more trouble than it is worth to students to abstain from the pledge in some classes. You risk angering an authority figure that has control of your grades. You can also be bullied for it by other students.

      Teachers don’t really have a sanctioned way out of leading the pledge in our state. Even if they did they face social pressures too. One year they moved the announcements to later period, and were accidentally leaving out the pledge. However, other teachers brought it up and we were pledging again. It’s easy when you have the same ideology as the ruling class to get things done.

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