If you are a conservative, evangelical Christian and fellow Republican you are probably about to get angry. So, read the quote by Jefferson at the top of this blog. Okay, now read it again. We now have another federal judge who has said that it is a violation of our constitution for a school operated by government to require the students attending that school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I happen to agree! Why? Because our constitution makes it clear that the government should not engage in a coercive exercise where people, in this case children, who are essentially under the control of government employees must acknowledge God. From 1892 to 1954 the words “under God” were not part of the Pledge. Back then we were not atheist and we were not “kicking God out” of anything as those currently going into irrational convulsions assert.
Here's some history: The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy. He devised it on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. Its wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the “United States.” It said, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The key words for Bellamy were "indivisible," which recalled the Civil War and the triumph of the Union over states' rights, and "liberty and justice for all," which was supposed to strike a balance between equality and individual freedom. By the 1920s, reciting the pledge had become a ritual in many public schools. The campaign to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance was part of the flood of religiosity of the early 1950’s. It's unclear precisely where the idea originated, but one driving force was the Catholic fraternal society the Knights of Columbus. In April 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut, D-Mich., formally proposed the alteration of the pledge in a bill he introduced to Congress. The "under God" movement didn't take off, however, until the next year, when it was endorsed by George M. Docherty, the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Washington that Eisenhower attended. In February 1954, Docherty gave a sermon - with the president in the pew before him - arguing that apart from "the United States of America," the pledge "could be the pledge of any country." He added, "I could hear little Moscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity." Perhaps forgetting that "liberty and justice for all" was not the norm in Moscow, Docherty urged the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge to denote what he felt was special about the United States. The ensuing congressional speeches offered more proof that the point of the bill was to promote religion. The legislative intent of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our government upon the Creator,” and to “deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."
This had not always been the case, however. In 1943 Chief Justice Robert Jackson wrote the following when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to force school children to recite the Pledge: “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
Look, the First Amendment isn’t rocket science. The balance between the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause depends on government neutrality. Government, and public schools ARE government, cannot be hostile to religion, and they cannot endorse religion. Agree or disagree, as least you have some facts and historical perspective.
And, one more thing. Should Christians pledge allegiance to any earthly flag or government or nation anyway? Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Caesar (government) may have your money, but only God is entitled to your allegiance and full devotion.