On Wed., March 24, 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether California public schools violated the 1st Amendment's establishment of religion clause by including the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" in its daily recitations (Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow).
This should get interesting for a number of reasons.
First, an admission. I am STRONGLY in favor of removing "Under God" from the pledge. One thing that most assuredly has threatened the US as well the world in all too real ways in this century has been terrorist attacks brought on by religious fanaticism. Yes Allah, I'm talking about you. The sooner we can get back to demonstrating to the world that religious tolerance is based on removing religious legislation from daily life, the sooner we can end the biggest current threat to the US and the world.
Now let's see the facts in regards to the pledge of allegiance.
(taken from Dr. John W. Baer)
"Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897).
Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex.
The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader's Digest of its day. Its owner and editor, Daniel Ford, had hired Francis in 1891 as his assistant when Francis was pressured into leaving his baptist church in Boston because of his socialist sermons. As a member of his congregation, Ford had enjoyed Francis's sermons. Ford later founded the liberal and often controversial Ford Hall Forum, located in downtown Boston.
In 1892 Francis Bellamy was also a chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. As its chairman, he prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute - his 'Pledge of Allegiance.'
His original Pledge read as follows: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * 'to' added in October, 1892. ]
Dr. Mortimer Adler, American philosopher and last living founder of the Great Books program at Saint John's College, has analyzed these ideas in his book, The Six Great Ideas. He argues that the three great ideas of the American political tradition are 'equality, liberty and justice for all.' 'Justice' mediates between the often conflicting goals of 'liberty' and 'equality.'
In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the 'leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.
In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.
Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.
Now what I find ironic about this case is that a Baptist minister wrote the pledge, but felt that including a reference to God would infer racial bigotry. He was right. Thomas Jefferson felt the same way. In a reply to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, Jefferson explained the reasoning behind the seperation of Church and State.
Gentlemen,-The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association give me the highest satisfaction. . . . Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.
Taken from -Jefferson, Writings, Vol. XVI, pp. 281-282, to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802.
Note that the phrase is not "the" establishment of religion, but "an" establishment of religion. It is not sufficient for the government to avoid establishing one particular religion; it may not establish any religion. And this is the whole point. Many people argue that polls indicate there is a majority of people who are for leaving the pledge alone, and this "Judicial activism" is ruining the "will of the majority".
But this is not at all what our Founders intended or what our Constitution says. The religion clauses in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights are, by definition, "counter-majoritarian." Justice Jackson said it well more than 50 years ago in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943):
"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to keep certain subjects free from political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections. They are permanently embedded in our laws. "
Therefore the debate concerning the pledge is being decided where it should be. And the courts should rule, correctly, that when "Under God" was added to the pledge in 1954 by Congress, they violated the Establishment clause of the Constitution of the United States.
Next we can get "In God We Trust" off the money too.
Jesus even said it- "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s."
Things are about to get interesting......