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United States

Pledge of Allegiance Ruled Unconstitutional 2722

Posted by michael
from the no-law-respecting-an-establishment-of-religion dept.
VUSE g-EE-k and entirely too many other people wrote in about an Appeals Court decision holding that the Pledge of Allegiance, as recited in its current form in various public schools (often by law), is unconstitutional. The court's decision (PDF) is available.
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Pledge of Allegiance Ruled Unconstitutional

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  • $$, too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gralem (45862) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:39PM (#3772903)
    I'm filing a suit against all US currency! It's unconstitutional!!!
    • Re:$$, too (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:41PM (#3772922)
      How are we going to pay you if you win?
    • "In God We Trust" was added to US currency in the 1950s, a few years after the Pledge of Allegiance was amended.

      http://www.moneyfactory.com/document.cfm/18/107

      I imagine the legislations to add these were made in the same spirit as attempts to put the Ten Commandments in schools and courtrooms.

      • "In God We Trust" was added to US currency in the 1950s, a few years after the Pledge of Allegiance was amended.
        Actually, it's a typo. The real phrase is "In gold we trust".
    • by sterno (16320) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:52PM (#3773113) Homepage
      US currency says "In God We Trust". Now, if that means you don't believe in God, it simply translated to, "Trust No One". Perhaps an even better motto when dealing with large piles of cash :)
    • Re:$$, too (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:56PM (#3773184)
      Really, there's a difference between saying something every day before schoolchildren-- highly impressionable people whose beliefs and views of the world are not fully formed-- and making them feel all wierd, like they're not doing something they're supposed to do, if they don't say it along, and making them feel like outcasts, like everyone is different from them and there's something wrong with them, if they don't agree with the words
      -- and printing a mention of God on some publicly distributed government items.

      The first has an undeniable aspect of coersion. The latter, less so.

      If a child sees "in god we trust" on currency, they walk away with the impression "i live in a nation more or less full of christians", which is more or less accurate. If a child has the pledge of allegience drilled into them every single day in their place of learning, they walk away with the impression "i am expected to be christian", which is wrong and a signal the government should not be sending.

      I would expect 90% of the people who are upset over this decision are upset because they want the government to send the signal to children that they are expected to be christian.
    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:02PM (#3773277) Journal

      Although I'm not thrilled about having that on our currency, I'm much more concerned about things like this infamous statement by George Bush, Sr.:

      George H.W. Bush, as Presidential Nominee for the Republican party; 1987-AUG-27: "No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

      I'm not going to post a reference link to this because there are so many. Just do a search for "George Bush atheist" and you'll find confirmation.

      GMD

      • by macaddict (91085) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:31PM (#3774402)
        George W. is an idiot.

        "The proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546

        And on the identity of God:

        "[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67

        More Jefferson quotes (On Politics and Government) are available at the University of Virginia [virginia.edu]

        Sara

      • by Anonymous Coward
        ISSUE
        "Can George Bush, with impunity, state that Atheists
        should not be considered either citizens or patriots?"

        The History of the Issue

        Madalyn O'Hair

        When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates had the following exchange with then Vice President Bush.

        Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are Atheists?

        Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the Atheist community. Faith in god is important to me.

        Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are Atheists?

        Bush: No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

        Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

        Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on Atheists.

        On October 29, 1988, Mr. Sherman had a confrontation with Ed Murnane, cochairman of the Bush-Quayle '88 Illinois campaign. This concerned a law-suit Mr. Sherman had filed to stop the Community Consolidated School District 21 (Chicago, Illinois, suburb) from forcing his first-grade Atheist son to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States "one nation under God" (Bush's phrase). The following conversation took place.

        Sherman: American Atheists filed the Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit yesterday. Does the Bush campaign have an official response to this filing?

        Murnane: It's bullshit.

        Sherman: What is bullshit?

        Murnane: Everything that American Atheists does, Rob, is bullshit.

        Sherman: Thank you for telling me what the official position of the Bush campaign is on this issue.

        Murnane: You're welcome

        This suit, now in federal district court for over three years, is not considered to be bullshit by the federal judge before whom it is pending. During the time it has been in the federal court, Robert Sherman's son, now age nine, has been physically and psychologically brutalized in his school for refusing to pledge to a "nation under God."

        After Bush's election but before his taking office, American Atheists wrote to Bush asking that he consider being sworn into office on the Constitution instead of the Bible and also asking him to retract his August 1987 statement. Bush had his White House buddy, C. Boyden Gray, counsel to the president, reply on White House stationery on February 21, 1989, stating that substantively Bush stood by his original statement.

        "As you are aware, the President is a religious man who neither supports atheism nor believes that atheism should be unnecessarily encouraged or supported by the government."

        American Atheists had not asked Bush to either "unnecessarily" or even "necessarily" encourage or support them. All they wanted was an apology for the insult. Many Atheists wrote to Bush over the issue and Nelson Lund, the associate counsel to the president, found it necessary to reply on April 7, 1989, directly to the American Atheist General Headquarters, Inc. This letter from the White House said that Mr. Gray was adhering to his statements in the February 21, 1989, letter. On May 4, 1989, Jon Murray, the president of

        American Atheists, again wrote to President Bush demanding a clarification of and an apology for his statement that Atheists "should not be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots." Bush ignored the letter, as did Gray and Lund. Mr. Murray also asked for an appointment so that a group of representatives of American Atheists could meet with Bush.

        Mr. Joseph W. Hagin 11 responded on May 25, 1989, again on White House stationery. He stated that the president "appreciated your taking the time to write and your willingness to share your thoughts" but that "due to heavy commitments on his official calendar" the president could not meet with representatives of American Atheists. On January 9, 1990, George Bush, in signing a proclamation for the Martin Luther King holiday, had the gall to remark that "bigots" must be brought to justice. Again, American Atheists threw his words back in his face, asking what his designation of Atheists as being unworthy of citizenship was. On February 5, 1990, Mr. Nelson Lund replied again on White House stationery--stating

        "We believe that our position has been adequately explained in previous correspondence."
    • by batobin (10158) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @07:05PM (#3774796) Homepage
      The pledge of allegiance is banned from being said in PUBLIC schools.

      U.S. money shouldn't be banned. U.S. money isn't public money. It's not issued by a public bank. It's issued by the FEDERAL RESERVE bank. Look at a dollar. It never says anything about the government. True, our government has passed legislature that says the dollar is our public money, but it's not issued by our government. Therefore, it is not ruled/governed by the constitution.
  • by LuckyJ (56389) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:40PM (#3772917) Homepage
    I wonder when the Consitution will be ruled Unconstititional? Maybe next week...
  • Eisenhower's Fault (Score:5, Informative)

    by e1en0r (529063) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:42PM (#3772937) Homepage
    It was Eisenhower who added the "under God" part of the Pledge of Allegiance. You can read about it here [earthlink.net].
    • by lingqi (577227) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:17PM (#3773501) Journal
      I like what Eisenhower said. I think it made a lot of sense -- and it is true -- America has grown to be very arrogant over the years, in many ways that i will not be listing here.

      At the mean time -- the pledge of allegiance, added with such a phrase, really does put stress on, i am sure, many people's minds. I, for one, dreaded those occations while in middle school. However, what is more worrisome is not necessarily the people who are made to say it when they do not want to -- they can just "watermelon" under their breath after all; it is, rather, the minds of children coaxed into the belief of God that way -- without ever knowing what it is like to be free to choose one's own religion(s).

      side note -- this will have some serious consequences -- all of the bills we've got have "in god we trust" written on them. i highly doubt the new rainbow series (discussed before under "Greenbacks no more") will do without them.

      But back to the Eisenhower thing. I think it is implemented in the wrong way. His intentions are good, but since then, the phrase has all but lost its meaning, because if it did not, my thread's parent will not be modded to 5:informative. In this vein of thought, i support taking "under God" out of the pledge. put somethig more... abstract in there, if they really wanted (words like "president", "dignity", "humility", "cheeseburgers", etc). maybe run a contest or something, like Maxim's caption contest. Winner gets a chance to go in a ring for a one on one to beat up Bin Laden whenever we capture him (or designate somebody like The Rock, for example. you guys figure it out).

      Last piece of ramble: The most demoralizing aspect of this whole ordeal isn't really about what goes into a pledge, whatever. it's rather the fact that we have so little tolerance for eachother. For "land of the free," it is really hard to be "free" now-a-days without somebody complaining that you doing what you wanna do is violating their freedom in some fringe ways. maybe it should read ... one nation under the principle of tolerance and forgiveness ... ?
      • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @09:08PM (#3775755) Homepage Journal
        In this vein of thought, i support taking "under God" out of the pledge. put somethig more... abstract in there, if they really wanted (words like "president", "dignity", "humility", "cheeseburgers", etc).

        I understand Pepsico has offered the U.S. Government $10 billion to replace "God" with "Pepsi".

        I understand Bill Gates has offered $20 billion to work his name into it.

        I understand Ted Turner has offered $40 billion to add "Israel Sucks" to the end.

  • Simmer down (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Torgo's Pizza (547926) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:42PM (#3772939) Homepage Journal
    Before the comments start to get out of hand, I'd like to point out that this will almost certainly be overturned by the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit has pulled this stunt many a time before, only to have it overturned or reverse itself later.
    • Re:Simmer down (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:53PM (#3773140) Homepage
      Before the comments start to get out of hand, I'd like to point out that this will almost certainly be overturned by the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit has pulled this stunt many a time before, only to have it overturned or reverse itself later.

      I don't see how that is so certain. In the first place the current supreme court has rulled several times against school prayer.

      The principal objection raised by the government was that the courts should not be concerned with trivial infractions. It would be very hard for the Supreme Court to claim that a case was important enough to consider and then rule that it was too insignificant to bother with.

      The rest of the world finds the fetish the US makes over its flag somewhat peculiar. The scenes of schoolchildren making loyalty oaths to the flag every day remind Europeans such as myself more of the types of society that Stalin and Hitler tried to impose than the values of liberal democracy.

      Finally the main objection to the pledge historically has been from religious groups, in particular the Quakers. For us the pledge of allegiance to a physical object is tantamount to idol worship which we have rather strong view against. Furthermore we don't make oaths by heaven for that is of God, nor by earth as that is his footstool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:43PM (#3772953)
    Millions of American schoolchildren --- including almost all adults who grew up in the US --- have for two generations recited a daily pledge of allegiance in schools. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that pledge to be a violation of the US Constitution. Social conservatives are outraged, liberals are smirking, and many of us are just stunned.

    Background on the Pledge of Allegiance

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

    And to the republic for which it stands

    one nation, indivisible,

    with liberty and justice for all

    The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian Socialist activist in 1892. Heavily promoted by the magazine The Youth's Companion, at the time one of the largest weekly magazines in the United States (it was eventually merged into the magazine American Boy, which was owned by the Atlantic Monthly), which was also involved in a movement to place American flags over every schoolhouse in the country. By 1905, a majority of the non-southern states had passed laws requiring schools to fly the flag, and it was already customary at that time to require students to recite the pledge daily. Eventually, most states passed laws requiring the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance. (In some states, students are also required to sing the national anthem).

    The wording of the pledge was codified into US law by Congress in 1942; in 1954, the wording of the pledge was changed by Congress, which added the phrase 'under God', making the line 'one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." This modified phrasing was adopted by schools across the country, and has remained intact to this day.

    Background on the case

    Michael Newdow, an atheist living in the state of California, sued the state on the ground that the California Education Code requirement that each school day begin with appropriate patriotic exercises including but not limited to the giving of the pledge of allegiance, and the school district's requirement that each elementary school class recite the pledge of allegiance daily compels his daughter to "watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God," and therefore constituted a state establishment of religion, prohibited by the first amendment (and, by extension through the fourteenth amendment, to states and school districts, which are sub-units of the states). His petition asked the court to order the President to modify the pledge to delete the offending section.

    The decision

    The 9th circuit analyzed the law establishing the pledge of allegiance using three legal tests used in establishment cases. (The Lemon test, which has mostly fallen into disfavor but has not been explicitly repudiated, requires government conduct to have a secular purpose, neither advance nor inhibit religion, and must not foster government entanglement with religion. The "coercion test" requires that government conduct not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise. The "endorsement test" requires that government not endorse a religion and "send a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders".). The court ruled that:

    • The inclusion of the phrase under God in the pledge is an endorsement of religious belief.
    • Reciting the pledge as it is currently codified is to swear allegiance to monotheism.
    • The pledge as currently codified fails the coercion test.
    • The inclusion of the phrase under God was *explicitly* done to promote a religious purpose, and therefore the pledge as currently codified fails the Lemon test.
    The court concluded that the 1954 act adding "under God" to the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional, and that the school district policy requiring daily recital is as well.

    Future steps

    The decision is only binding in the area covered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii - but would require school districts in that area to cease reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. It is expected that the school district will appeal, in which case the decision will most likely be heard by the US Supreme Court sometime next year. A copy of the opinion is here [findlaw.com].

    • by Stonehead (87327) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:55PM (#3773175)
      Thanks for your lengthy explanation. I'm European, and I had not ever heard of such a thing. I think I get the context a bit. To be honest, this 'pledge' sounds very conservative and a bit like an old patriotic communist system. I mean, to indoctrinate children on schools with political and religious shit like this - I'm very happy that I've never been drilled like that! One cynic note: Saddam Hussein recently made it compulsory for all Iraqi children to know his nationalist novels..
      • by evilpenguin (18720) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:24PM (#3774311)
        It is particularly ironic, since one of the events that drove the first wave of British colonials to the "New World" was the Catholic/Protestant civil wars in England and the resulting requirement of "loyalty oaths."

        I guess the theory was that it was okay to require a Pledge of Allegience to a "flag" and to "the Republic for which it stands." That's not the same as requiring a pledge to a specific sovereign. As an American, I still never liked it. I hold the superiority of a system of civil liberty "to be self-evident." If your freedom doesn't sell itself, maybe it isn;t freedom.

        I think we have a pretty good system, but like any soceity, we have teetered between liberty and authority. From the J. Edgar Hoover era to Joe McCarthy, we had some very repressive and scary times. The main reason I have hope (and still very much love the system in my country) is that we have a terribly inefficient government. I hear conservatives saying we need efficient government. I disagree. An efficient government is a repressive government. The separation of powers does a pretty good job of bringing our system back into line.

        Not that both liberal forces and conservative forces haven't messed with it. From Democrat F.D.Roosevelt attempting to pack the Supreme Court to Republican R.M.Nixon covering up a felony commited to further his reelection, we've had plenty of attempts to tilt the scales, but somehow it comes back.

        Right now, I think we are heading into a rough patch. Between the pressure of big money getting legislation passed for wealthy special interests (Hollywood, anyone?) and the understandable but lamentable reverses to liberty and privacy in the name of security following 9/11, we are going to have plenty to wrangle with in the system. That the system will bring us back to equilibrium, however, I am confident.

        I think this was a very good decision and almost clears the bad taste in my mouth from the attempts to get a flag burning amendment passed.
    • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:04PM (#3773315) Journal
      Pardon my potential ignorance, but wouldn't this simply cause the 1954 legislation to be struck down, meaning that the Pledge in its old form (i.e. without "under God") could still legally be recited? The case was challenging both (separately) the 1954 legislation and the school district's rule that it must be recited. The district's rule is only unconstitutional IF the law it references is active -- if the 1954 law is struck down, then the district's behavior is not unconstitutional.
      • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:11PM (#3773429) Homepage

        I suspect that if the Pledge were changed to remove "under God," this whole issue would go away, at least as far as the courts are concerned.

        Odds of that happening are within epsilon of zero. I guarantee you that the Family Values crowd is going to use this to hammer massive invasions of religious liberties down our throats, with Joe Lieberman (yes, the so-called Liberal) leading the way. Rationality and common sense can barely stand up for themselves against either nationalism or religious belief. Against both combined, they're practically criminal offenses.

        • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:37PM (#3773745) Journal
          I'm not sure why you call Lieberman a "so-called Liberal". Nobody calls him that -- he's more or less a religious zealot fascist. Just because he's a Democrat doesn't mean he's a liberal. I'm more or less a liberal, and used to be a Democrat, but when the Democratic National Committee declared something about glorifying God, I determined that they weren't representing my interests particularly well. I re-registered as a different party thereafter, though I won't say which, to try to keep people from making judgments about me based on my political party. :)
  • by admiral2001 (518452) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:45PM (#3773002)
    ... I ask you to consider a simple scenario. What if this gets repealed, then in 30-40 years, the major religion in the country changes to something else, like Islam. What if there would then be a successful lobby to change 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' to 'under Allah' and 'In Allah We Trust'. How would you react to that?
    (Feel free to substitute 'Islam' and 'Allah' with any appropriate pairing).

    I, for one, am completely for this ruling, speaking as a person who always felt uncomfortable mumbling those 2 words in grade school.

    • I remember when the Euro was in the "design" phase, and Dutch people wondered what was going to happen to the words "God is with us", etched in the rim of the old Guilder coins. Some were upset over losing those words on our currency. (Side note: the Dutch 1 and 2 Euro coins still carry those words, but who cares?).

      Those were fun discussions! Arguments about our multicultural society, and separation of state and church, were all swept aside with counterarguments about cultural heritage and such. But those in favour of those four words would look quite shocked when one would suggest to replace the word God with Allah. Funny how such things work two ways...

      Anyway... is this even worth being upset about? As someone rightly said, the children in school mostly cannot grasp the significance of these words, so them saying "under God" isn't a big deal. If you're not religious, you can deal with saying God, right? If you are religious, will God suddenly smite the US in wrath because the two words are removed? If you are of another persuation, will you go to hell for saying this?

      get a real issue to concern yourself with, people.
  • Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MisterBlister (539957) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:45PM (#3773004) Homepage
    Actually I wish the entire idea of a forced Pledge of Allegiance would be done away with.

    The separation of church and state is one thing (which I agree with)...But the whole concept of the pledge of allegiance smacks of propaganda and indoctrination.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm no commie-hippe-whatever. Hell, I don't even use Linux... But forcing kids to pledge their allegiance to flag/country/god/whatever every day just smacks of so much wrongness. Let these ideas stand on their own merits, not be points of indoctrination.

    And lastly, I think if anything a forced pledge of allegiance is self-harming in that, due to having to say it each day kids view it as some form of rote punishment. The words behind the pledge are lost because they learn to recite them like robots long before they can really understand the implications of the words. Why do this?

  • Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Deagol (323173) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:48PM (#3773041) Homepage
    As an atheist myself, I always felt uncomfortable with The Pledge. I still find a mandatory recitation of it too close to the 2 Minutes of Hate (or whatever), but just in the other extreme.

    My 7-year-old daughter, who attends public school in Utah, is always coming home with little sayings and tidbits about Jesus and god. I haven't jumped on the school or her teacher just yet, but I may if it continues.

    Thers's nothing wrong with religion, in terms of personal choice. However, children are too young to contemplate the philosophical and metaphysical consequences of a religiouos faith. Hell, even many seemingly intelligent adults can't give a good reason for their faith (or for their denouncement of my lack of it).

    I wish religious followers would leave children alone and let informed adults come to them when they reach an age appropraite to do so.

  • by phraktyl (92649) <wyatt@ d r a g goo.com> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:49PM (#3773063) Homepage Journal
    ...one Nation, under your choice of a single diety, a pantheon of dieties, or no dieties at all, indivisible...
    • by mshomphe (106567)
      ...one Nation, under your choice of a single diety, a pantheon of dieties, or no dieties at all, indivisible...

      Or how about just "One nation, indivisible"?
  • by ocie (6659) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:50PM (#3773072) Homepage
    This makes your paper currency unconstitutional. Please mail it to me for proper disposal.

    Thanks.

  • by totallygeek (263191) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:50PM (#3773084) Homepage
    This can be fixed by changing it to

    One nation, under G[g]od(s)*, indivisible...

    * or under no devine rule


    I don't see what the fuss is. I doubt seriously that all Christians or even monotheistic theologists agree on all tenants of what God is. So, what Eisenhower thought God was and what he expected "his" nation to envision shouldn't be any different than our money mentioning "In God We Trust". I don't see too many people giving up money because of the statement on the bills and coins.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:51PM (#3773090) Homepage Journal
    As an atheist, all I can say about this ruling is "Thank God!"

    ;)
    • by brad.hill (21936) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:43PM (#3773848)
      As much as I agree in spirit (ha ha) with the ruling, I am pretty disappointed by it.


      Why? Because it throws gasoline on the fire of the paranoid delusions of many Christians in this country that they are somehow a persecuted minority squaring off with an evil govenrment committed to state-enforced atheism.


      The Pledge of Allegiance has such enormous emotional and social weight behind it, especially post 9/11, that it makes a perfect rallying point for "the lengths to which the atheists will go." This decision is just begging for a major political backlash and reeastablishment of the Christian Right's morality in our national political dialogue.


      It will contribute to the alienation of atheists and other non-Christians as "unpatriotic" in a time when that equates to "terrorist enemy" and constitutional protections are weaker than they have been in 60 years.


      ARRRGH. What HORRIBLE timing.

  • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:51PM (#3773104)
    For those non-Americans reading this thread, the pledge of allegiance goes like this:

    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.

    Interestingly enough, one of the early drafts went something like

    ...And to the Republic
    For Which it Stands,
    One Nation, Indivisible,
    With Liberty, Equality, And Justice for all.

    However, at the time (early 20th century), that version was rejected because of pressure from the pro-segregationists. Interestingly it wasn't only the fear of racial equality that was cited as a reason for rejecting that particular draft, but the appalling possiblity that it could be construed to imply the women should be considered equal to men as well. God forbid.

    Frankly, rulings like this restore some of my faith in the judicial process. As currently written, the plege should be ruled unconstitutional, as (to refer to another post) should the engraving of the words "In God We Trust" on our currency.

    Neither reference to God in either context serves to enhance freedom of religion, and both serve to undermine the fundamental separation of church and state upon which the republic was founded, revisionist Christian rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.
  • by Saige (53303) <<evil.angela> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:53PM (#3773142) Journal
    If you think about it, the entire idea of pledging allegiance to a FLAG, a piece of cloth, is pretty darn creepy. It's things like that that give people the idea to create a constitutional amendment to prevent burning a flag - as if that act somehow takes away freedom - it's the amendment that would be taking away freedom.

    Repeating the pledge, every day in school, over and over, seems an awfully lot like an attempt to indoctrinate children, instead of educating them.

    I harbor no special feelings for the flag, or toward the name of this county. My feelings are for the liberty and freedom themselves, as they're what is important, not some design on cloth.
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skyshadow (508) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @04:54PM (#3773148) Homepage
    Beyond the phrasing issue, I don't think we should try to install patriotism by forcing people to recite a paragraph over and over again.

    I would much prefer that our citizens be educated in what's good about America and what's unique about being a citizen so they can fight to keep it a place they should be willing to defend. I'm talking about things like civil rights -- due process, free speech, etc. Our children should be educated in why these things are important even when they're inconvenient (there are a lot of seemingly educated people who don't get this at all).

    Again, something that makes America worth the effort is the fact that we don't have to put up with the government telling us what to believe. The Pledge is just hot air, but our *rights*, the ability to exercise those rights and the defense of those rights is critical to our continuing existance as something special and worthwhile. Without those, we're just another despotic country masquerading as a republic. The world has quite enough of those.

    Again, some people think this country is special because of symbols like the flag or the pledge or the anthem. Personally, what I love and fear the loss of are the rights which those things represent.

  • by mgpeter (132079) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:00PM (#3773242) Homepage
    The Federalist Papers is a book that contains the letters of our founding fathers during the writing of the constitution. In it there are many concerns of what "Seperation of Church and State" actually means.

    Sep of Church & State was included, because at the time there were many countries that were actually ruled by the church elders, our founding fathers did not want this, so they added it to the constitiution. It was in no way meant to take all religion out of the government, it was included to ensure that the heads of the church would not rule the government.

    I don't know when the press or lawyers or whoever construed it into what it is today. Anyway, don't take my word for it, actually read the book at Project Gutenberg [promo.net]
  • by cartman (18204) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:02PM (#3773286)
    State-sponsored pledges of allegiance are propagandistic, and exist to inspire collective feeling. That's not what America is about. It's not the "under God" part that bothers me, but rather the conscious attempt to instill loyalty in the young.

    State-sponsored pledges are attempts to form state-sponsored beliefs. The pledge of alleigance is not essentially different from the mandatory pledges of loyalty that are taken by the soldiers of various totalitarian regimes. We decry their pledges as propaganda, yet we require our own.

    I would rather see the pledge go by the wayside. The only expression of patriotism that is inspiring to me is one that is genuine and spontaneous.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:09PM (#3773398)
    I'm sure nobody will stop you from saying "under God" if you want. The point is, the government has no business coercing people to say it who don't want to.

    OTOH, the point someone made about currency is interesting. Maybe we should change it to, "In Greenspan We Trust", or more perhaps more accurately "On Friedman We Rely" or "From Soros We Beg Mercifulness", or "We Sure Don't Trust Those Guys at Andersen Anymore".
  • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:33PM (#3773712) Journal
    Justice Ferdinand F. Fernandez (enough F's? quick! get this man a stage name) partially dissented with the decision, and puts forth quite a bit of poor argumentation [1].

    One of his quotes was:

    I recognize that some people may not feel good about hearing the phrases recited in their presence, but, then, others might not feel good if they are omitted.
    The logic here is that either way, someone will be offended -- if you don't include "under God", believers will be offended, and if you DO include "under God", atheists (or believers in other faiths) will be offended. The problem with this is that a vast majority of government laws, texts, and other actions contain nothing referring to God. He fails to address the fact that the phrase's presence in the Pledge is not about "feeling good" -- the Pledge, as an instrument of Congress, may not say anything EITHER WAY about religion or God. Omitting "under God" from the PoA no more denigrates religion than does omitting references to God from the Telecommuncations Act of 1996.

    His main point is that the harm caused by "under God" is de minimis, meaning so insignificant as to have no measurable effect. I disagree on this point, although it is difficult to prove one way or the other, but I see it thus: The "under God" reference has been a part of the national zeitgeist for coming on 50 years. An overwhelming majority of Americans know the Pledge of Allegiance, and even if most never contemplate its meaning beyond reciting it occasionally, its values and meaning creep their way into our minds every time we hear it. This is not a bad thing in itself; anything repeated to you often enough will be ingrained into your consciousness.

    But I don't think anyone can seriously deny that the majority of Americans see religion as something patriotic and necessary -- atheists are often seen as unpatriotic or un-American, even though such a comparison is, on its face, contrary to the definition of those words. Even former President Bush (the elder) said that he doesn't think atheists should be considered citizens, let alone patriots. "under God"'s presence in the government-backed Pledge of Allegiance has, for the last 50 years, undoubtedly left a mark on the beliefs and minds of Americans, and I would argue that it has at the very least contributed to our country's tendency toward credulous trust in the Almighty rather than reason and logic.

    I've given away my bias here; I'm an atheist, and I agree with the court's decision. I also believe that "In God We Trust" should be removed from our currency, for similar reasons. Nonetheless, Justice Goodwin has acted properly in considering the case in a manner similar to what the Supreme Court has done on similar cases. Justice Fernandez's protestations seem to be based on nothing more than his own personal opinion, rather than relevant precedent.

    [1] Justice Fernandez also appeals to emotion by suggesting that popular songs such as "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful" may be taken away from us. He even mentions the third stanza of "The Star-Spangled Banner", our national anthem. Ignoring the fact that it is the fourth stanza that contains a reference to God (the version of the SSB that you hear at baseball games contains only the first stanza), I agree that he has a point -- however the point is not in what he says, but the fact that he says it at all. There will be loud opposition to anything preventing the government from referencing God (the First Amendment? what's that?), and attempts to do so will be met with emotional resistance. On the other hand, even IF the SSB is, by law, our national anthem, there is no law that I know of which requires it to be recited or sung on any government-sponsored occasion. (If there is such a law, then it should rightly be struck down, following the same logic.) Hence the SSB's being law (if it is) would quite possibly not fail the Establishment Clause tests so commonly used by the SCOTUS.

  • by RestiffBard (110729) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @05:55PM (#3774004) Homepage
    the pledge was invented in the 1890s I believe. Originally it did not contain the "under god" part. that was added at the request of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal Organization around the 1950s. Before some of you fly off the handle might I suggest reading up on this. One excellent source (you don't even have to read) is www.th-jefferson.org [th-jefferson.org] I'm not even going to rant at this point beyond saying that its nice to see that for once we're getting back to the actual constitution as opposed to these phony "traditions". Oaths and pledges have never been a tradition in a country founded by men who detested the very idea of an oath or pledge of allegiance. Its refreshing that in this time when so many of our rights are in jeopardy and the constitution is being contorted to meet the needs of national security that there is a moment of sanity. Ok, so its a little ranty.
  • by macsox (236590) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:07PM (#3774143) Journal
    i'm in california -- but if anyone wants to use the verbiage:

    As someone who cares passionately about issues involving the separation of church and state, and a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (au.org), I was overjoyed to see that the 9th District Court today upheld the intentions of the Constitution in declaring the addition of 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance, a pledge many schools force children to say, as unconstitutional.

    My joy was quickly soured when I heard reports of the reactionary and nasty resolution passed by the Senate today, chastising the District Court which made the ruling.

    I don't know what your personal religious beliefs are, but I hope that you can recognize that making children declare that the United States is a nation under God is an infringement of their free exercise of religion if they are not religious, or do not believe in God. Such an infringement is inherently contrary to the letter and spirit of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    I am incredibly thankful that there exist checks and balances within our government, so that wrongs perpetrated by one branch of the government can be righted by another. As a Democratic Senator in a time of a Republican administration, I am sure you see this value everyday. It was therefore doubly distressing that the resolution passed should have been personal argumentative as well as constitutionally indefensible.

    In these days of increasing governmental restriction of personal liberty at the hands of an Executive branch that dreams of a dictatorship, even the most minor victory against improper legislation and decisions should be resoundingly celebrated. That the Senate failed to celebrate this decision is saddening and a reflection that it is easier to go with the majority than to stand for what is right.

    Hoping you can convince me that I'm wrong,

    Yours, etc.
  • Big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eyeball (17206) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:13PM (#3774206) Journal
    I was born Jewish, broght up athiest, then on my own began following the teachings of Buddha, and yet through all that, "one nation under God" and "in God we trust" never really bothered me.

    Would someone please explain, in plain cause-and-effect, end-results, bottom-line, what would happen if kids continued to say that? Can't parent's just tell their children "Well Billy, when you start school today you're going to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and part of it says 'under God,' because the people who wrote that believed something we don't, and they aren't wrong, and we aren't wrong, and..." blah blah blah..

  • by hyacinthus (225989) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:14PM (#3774209)
    Now, I'm a sort of atheist-agnostic myself, certainly not a religious man. And I've always seethed over the way that "...under God..." was crammed into the Pledge of Allegiance during the 50's. So I wouldn't be too displeased to see it go, yet, all the same...

    I heard this story in a news item on NPR this afternoon, and a quote from the plaintiff Newdow, the man who filed suit because his daughter had to recite the Pledge in school, caught my attention: he claimed that it "hurt" (his word) his daughter to have to listen to those words. (Note: to _listen_ to them. Not to say them--as has been pointed out in this discussion, it has long been established that a child cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge.)

    What the f**k? I mean, this kid, all her life, is going to have to hear expressions of belief that she has been trained not to approve of. (Note, _trained_. She's a second-grader; she's not old enough to have a truly independent opinion on this or anything, except maybe whether she likes broccoli or not.) She's gonna see people wearing crucifixes (and Stars of David, and pentacles, and whatever), she's gonna read and hear and see people talking about God and Jesus and Allah _wherever she goes_. What kind of lesson is it for her to learn, that a federal court has decided that she doesn't even have to _hear_ something she doesn't like, or that her father doesn't like?

    I'm reminded of the imbroglio in San Diego a few years ago, when some atheist group or other tried to get the Mt. Soledad cross torn down. I could respect their arguments, and yet still think, "What a bunch of yahoos! It's a cross. There are lots of crosses around. Deal with it."

    It's one reason that, even though I don't believe in God, I often can't stand the company of some atheists; they walk through life with a giant chip on their shoulders, ready to jump down the throat of anyone who so much as whispers the G-word.

    hyacinthus.
    • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @07:48PM (#3775134) Journal
      The point is that what she's hearing is the government telling her that there is a God. It's not telling her that there are people who believe in God or gods; it's telling her that the U.S. government supports the idea that there is a God, and that we are somehow beneath him. This is harmful because it violates Newdow's right to direct his daughter's religious education: the government is teaching her about religion, and that is not its place. That's WHY we have the Establishment Clause.

      Nobody's complaining (well, nobody sane anyway) that private individuals don't have a right to preach their religion to people they run into. They have as much right to preach at me as I do to ignore them or preach right back at them. Newdow's daughter will, undoubtedly, encounter myriad religious symbols in her life, but there is no law saying that private individuals cannot wear religious symbols or promote religious belief. There IS, however, a law saying that the GOVERNMENT can't do it.

      Whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe that we really are "one nation under God", it is inappropriate for the government to take that stance.
  • by ellem (147712) <ellem52@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:15PM (#3774219) Homepage Journal
    The DOI is really a rant about not wanting to be governed by a King who lives across an Ocean. It is in fact a Declaration Of Independence. So for all of you folks who are worried that its references to Divine this or that will render it Unconstitutional, stop worrying. In truth, it is mere a very nice thing that we have that has no power. It's like a family Heirloom.

    The Pledge Of Allegiance is, in fact, a pledge. It probably _is_ unconstitutional to make children recite a Pledge Of Allegiance to anything or anyone. Of course if Saddam Hussien were forcing the children of his counrty to recite a Pledge Of Allegiance we'd all be very forthright in our disdain for such heiniousness.

    Personally, I like the Pledge. I don't mind the God part; I simply replaced the phrase, or omitted it when I spoke it in the presense of Sister Mary Verylarge.

    Of course the Media (/. included) will sensationalize this story.

    If you want a story to sensationalize start talking about Flag Burning. Something every American should DO because we CAN. Nothing speaks of our Freedom more than the ability to BURN our FLAG.
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:22PM (#3774287)
    Now all they gotta do is remove that offensive "In God We Trust" from the money, and I'll be much happier. They're about to redesign the $20 (to add more colour), so hopefully this will happen before that. I'm sure our money will still be ugly, but at least it'll be colourful, and hopefully, diety-free.
  • by ferrocene (203243) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:23PM (#3774303) Journal
    R-Iowa:
    "This decision is so much out of the mainstream of thinking of Americans and the culture and values that we hold in America, that any Congressman that voted to take it out would be putting his tenure in Congress in jeopardy at the next election," Grassley said.

    His quote describes exactly what should NOT happen in today's society. Doesn't anyone do what is right, and not what will get him re-elected? Collectively, we're still operating in the 17th century.

  • Other changes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by calibanDNS (32250) <brad_statonNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @06:36PM (#3774447)
    Hopefully this will be the first step towards several similar changes such as removing "In God We Trust" from our currency and taking bibles out of swearing in ceremonies.
  • Not just "under god" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym (62607) on Wednesday June 26, 2002 @07:12PM (#3774856)

    I'm waiting for the day when someone brings a lawsuit on the grounds that they worship neither the flag nor the republic for which it stands.

    As a matter of interest, do non-US-citizens who attend US public schools have to recite the pledge?

  • On another list, someone wrote:
    > In its ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 1954 act of Congress that inserted the phrase "under God" after the phrase "one nation" in the pledge. <

    It is disappointing that so many of the TV news accounts this evening ignore the 1954 amendment, and falsely state that the pledge has contained the "Under God" wording for more than a century.

    I have always been uncomfortable -- at least since the seventh grade -- saying those two words. More recently, as someone educated in the law (yes, I am a lawyer) and as someone who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, I do not believe that our Constitution places our country "under God" but expressly separates church and state. There were earlier cases prohibiting schools from compelling students to recite the pledge or salute the flag if it conflicted with their religious beliefs (for example, some religious groups refuse to salute the flag because they view the flag as a "graven image" (false idol) prohibited by the Second Commandment).

    This case, like the school prayer cases, revolved around the implied endorsement, pressure, and stigma involved when the pledge and its "under God" language are recited in public classrooms.

    To be honest, I've never understood why anyone thinks it is appropriate to demand that school children (many of them non-citizens), pledge allegiance to the "flag," as this helps reinforce the belief that if someone is waving the flag, we must blindly follow them, and criticizing the flag-waver is somehow "un-American." Even in this "revolutionary" ruling, the court did not prohibit schools from having a flag-salute ceremony that includes reciting a "pledge of allegiance to the flag" without the "under God" language.

    Unfortunately, there is little doubt among legal scholars, or in my mind, that an "en banc" panel of the 9th Circuit will reverse this ruling, or if they do not, then the U.S. Supreme Court will gladly reverse it. As my former Constitutional Law professor (Boalt Hall's Jesse Choper) said in several TV interviews today, the Supreme Court will certainly view this language as "too small" to be worth ruling invalid -- oddly enough, arguably consistent with the Court's repeated hints that in order for Congress to prohibit flag-burning, it must first decide if the flag will be the "one thing" that they will prohibit desecrating (and Congressmen have too many sacred cows that they won't sacrifice to that trivial issue).

    The most disappointing thing about the "person on the street" interviews I saw on the news today, is that the questions posed by the newspersons were about "making it illegal for children to recite the pledge of allegiance," which is not what the ruling said. Why can't people understand the difference between censoring people who want to recite the pledge without state compulsion (free speech) and the state compelling someone to say something that they do not believe, in direct contradiction to the "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses of the first amendment -- or regulating people's beliefs or speech (which is what Congress was really trying to do in 1954, to oppose the "Godless communists" and reinforce the widespread belief that you must believe in "the One God" to be a "real" American)?

    Note that I have no objection that members of my local Rotary Club recite the pledge (including the "under God" language) and one of our members is asked to say a prayer each week -- I can respect the decision of the majority of a private club's members on these points, though that when we recited the pledge during a visit by two dozen guests from our Mexican "sister city," some of our guests were visibly uncomfortable. (For a year or more, our Rotary Club had a humorous running debate about how long the pause should be before "under God.") Some weeks, the prayer is expressly Christian, once it was explicitly Muslim, most weeks it is quite generic, and occasionally, it is a non-religious statement or "thought.")

    On another list, someone wrote:
    > The founders of this country -- or whoever -- were quite right not to include that phrase in the "Pledge of Allegiance" originally. <

    The reference to "the founders" jarred me, because I had thought the Pledge of Allegiance was created after the civil war (hence the "indivisible" language).

    Apparently, we were both wrong: according to "A Short History of the Pledge of Allegiance" ( http://www.vineyard.net/vineyard/history/pledge.ht m [vineyard.net] ), the pledge was written (apparently by a Socialist, no less) in 1892. Of course, that's just what someone said on a web page. See also http://www.google.com/search?q=+history+%22pledge+ of+allegiance%22+under+God+indivisible [google.com]

  • by quag7 (462196) <deepspace@dataswamp.net> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @06:08AM (#3777746) Homepage

    The first problem is why say this at all? Why make it a semi-compulsory ritual to begin with?

    Kids say this pledge literally thousands of times throughout their life to the point that it becomes a meaningless string of phonemes. The Pledge reminds me of listening to fellow Catholics recite the Profession of Faith on Sundays when I was a kid. So repetitious was it that no one even consciously knew what it was they were saying anymore. You could tell by the emotionless drone; it made the several parishes I was a part of sound like some religious cult under deep mind control. (In reality of course it was a bunch of people trying to stay awake).

    Its not just the "under God" part I object to. It's the whole thing.

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

    Well, what if immoral, sadistic acts are being committed under the name of that flag? The Klan flies that flag. The flag was on the uniforms of soldiers during the My Lai massacre. I don't think that the flag is evil, but it certainly is subjective and few can agree on what the flag means. Flags, like bumper stickers, are blunt objects that can mean a multiplicity of things to different people. If you're talking about the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and so forth, well, yes, I have a personal allegiance to those moral and political principles. If you're talking about our corrupt Congress and increasingly spooky President and what he's doing supposedly in my name and yours as the figurehead of our Republic, then no. Americans in particular seem to have a weird fetish for these kinds of symbols, and it is something which seriously distracts from the very real principles we ought to be talking about.

    And to the Republic for which it stands.

    Someone pointed out that the the flag represents the Republic. Well, if so, then this is redundant. Strike the "pledge allegiance to the flag" part and just pledge allegiance to the Republic. But even this is problematic. What if you feel the Republic is corrupt? I often do (I often believe as a nation we do many good things, but it is certainly a mixed bag). I have no issue with the "as written" principles this country was founded on, nor even honest business and capitalism, but that this Republic honestly represents these principles consistently is more than questionable.

    One Nation

    Well, I believe that we are one nation, and that nations can and should be diverse and built around broad principles of civic morality. Tolerance, freedom, and standing up both for your own rights and those of your neighbor. Others may be into sedition. I don't know. I prefer to connect myself to the world and others in the contexts of honesty and mutually beneficial community, but I respect the rights of those who don't and want to live up a mountain in Montana somewhere.

    Under God,

    I don't think God has anything to do with it. For example, I seem to remember a passage in the Bible about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. We are a capitalist country, and frankly, I have no problem with the honest, productive accumulation of wealth through honest trade and productivity. But depending on which part of the Bible you conveniently choose to follow today, it's questionable that God has anything to do with this. As an agnostic myself, I am not offended at all by other people saying this pledge (or praying silently to themselves in public places - even government buildings, or putting up Christmas trees in parks), but why must it be institutionalized in this instance? It's not a matter of having a problem with the Pledge of Allegiance, it is the problem of forcing others to say it as well. That strikes me as very, very, unAmerican. I've said the Pledge thousands of times, and saying Under God doesn't freak me out, but it is wholly unnecessary. Those who support the compulsory pledge, should they consider themselves quote-unquote Real Americans, ought to have no objection to this being purged in a nation supposedly founded on freedom of - and from - religion. I don't understand psychologically what makes it so important to compel others to swear allegiance to their particular God. It sounds rather...Taliban...to me. Or suggests a kind of self-doubt and paranoia allayed only by consensus, the assuredness of hearing many others pledge allegiance to a God you have some kind of doubt about. I don't understand the motivation here.

    Indivisible Well thank God this nation divides when our government is perpetrating one atrocity for another, whether it be slavery, institutionalized racism, immoral, meddling wars abroad, or blatant Nixonesque authoritarianism. Unity is only a value when it is attached to a kind of tolerance and moral consensus, not when compelled through the kind of propaganda we're dealing with right now where our own congress is afraid to do anything other than indulge any authoritarian whim our President has. Division, however much it lulls us out of our stupor and worries us enough that we can't be satisfied drooling at stupid sitcoms at night, is healthy. Division is cultural, moral, and political dissonance; it insists that we weigh our actions and values as a nation. What good is unity if it is under the auspices of jingoism, groupthink, and collectivism? Division ought not be a permanent state but I'm really thankful that people are willing to stand up and say, "I will not support this; not even in the context that we are both countrymen and this is being done in our collective name." How often did our founding fathers make statements about how a revolution every so often is a healthy thing? We ought to be able to sustain reasonable differences and remain united, but there must be a limit to this. Otherwise, there is nothing worthwhile about our freedom, or our Republic.

    With liberty, and justice, for all

    Well with tongue in cheek, it's kind of fun to say this line with a heavy dose of irony. As noble as this sentiment is - and it is perhaps, in its honest, untarnished form, the most noble part of the Pledge of Allegiance, it...well...doesn't apparently apply to many classes of people including foreigners, pot smokers, hackers on trumped-up charges, anyone serving a draconian mandatory minimum sentence for a petty crime, dozens of political criminals from the Nixon years still in jail and denied new hearings, trials, or parole. People in internment camps. And so on.

    The justice part doesn't apply much to the wealthiest and most powerful who buy their way out of justice and wind up serving sentences at federal country clubs. Celebrities also don't seem to go to jail very often for the things the rest of us do. Victims of right-wing regimes we've propped up in the past are excluded here, obviously. And so on and so forth. The point is, if anyone should be forced to take this pledge, it is our *leaders* and people in the justice system. Justice applies not only to the poor and downtrodden who often get screwed by the System because they don't have the money to hire a decent lawyer, but also to the rich and powerful who rarely pay for their crimes.

    I don't think anyone should be forced or compelled to take any pledge. It ought not be part of any compulsory institution like our public education system (itself arguably a huge waste of time and money). But if there must be a pledge, it should be something more along lines of:

    I pledge to be honest, to criticize my government when commits crimes or supports those who do. I pledge to uphold and fight for the values enshrined in our Constitution. I pledge to protest and throw my own weight against the eternally grinding gears of authoritarianism wherever I may find them. I pledge to respect and protect the values, practices, and expression of those who are different from me, even though I may find them objectionable, provided that those practices do not infringe on the freedom of others. I pledge to question authority, recognizing its legitimacy only when it serves the rational values of of liberty and justice. I pledge honesty, honor, respect, and civility in ordinary discourse and human interaction (This of course would be problematic among most Usenet users, but that's a different rant.) I pledge loyalty only to principles, and not the symbols, individuals, and collectives by which those principles are corrupted. I stand in opposition to hypocrisy, dishonesty, and the use of violence except as a last resort in legitimate retaliation or self-defense to solve disputes.

    To me, this is a far more American pledge.

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