On Wednesday, June 26th, 2001, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, in it’s current form, is unconstitutional, due to it’s inclusion of the words ‘under God’. The words ‘under God’ were added in 1956 during the Eisenhower administration and it became official with an act of Congress.
There has been violent opposition to this ruling in both the government as well as the general public. Several members of Congress have resorted to name calling, labeling the judges (or single judge as some of the more senile members of congress believe) stupid. This is not the way elected officials should behave. These people are supposed to be setting an example for the nation.
These judges did not come to this conclusion lightly. They looked at the laws regarding the separation of church and state and found that this was indeed an infringement of that separation. Plainly stated, this is an obvious conclusion. One must make great assumptions and compromises of logic to believe otherwise.
President George W. Bush, in reaction to the 2-1 ruling, stated ‘We need to put judges on the bench that understand that our rights are derived from God.’ If this isn’t a perfectly obvious example for the need for better enforcement of the seperation of church and state, then I don’t know what is. This is a perfect example of how an indoctrinated recitation of a statement of allegiance to a nation with the inclusion of religious properties can drift a nation towards religious fundamentalism. There are many people in this nation and in this world that believe that the rights of humankind are derived not from any one deity or deities, but derived from the inherent common sense and morals of the people themselves. To assume that rights are derived from such a deity violates the American basis of the separation of church and state. To hear this coming from a sitting president is indeed a frightening illustration that religious fundamentalism has encroached upon our government.
I for one feel that the words ‘under God’ should be removed from the pledge of allegiance, because it excludes atheists as well as polytheists and religions that do not have deities at all. It serves to divide the nation into theists and atheists, and it’s current wording infringes upon the rights of the atheist constituency.
The separation of church and state must be enforced. We have seen what harm state-mandated religion has done to nations throughout history. The United States should not become the world’s next government of religious fundamentalism. We should not think of ourselves as ‘One nation, under God,’ but rather simply ‘One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’