Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pet Peeve - The Pledge of Allegiance

I have a Facebook friend that posted the following status:

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.

I grew up reciting this every morning in school; it is a shame we not longer do that for fear of offending someone......How many Americans will re-post this and not care about offending anyone?? I just did.

I certainly have no problem with offending someone.  But, I won't re-post this.  I find it absolutely mind boggling that people don't see the addition of "under God" as being completely unconstitutional.  Any rational application of the Lemon test would throw this out in a heartbeat.  However, the Ninth Appellate Court does not agree.
On March 11th, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in the case of Newdow vs Rio Linda Union School District. In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court ruled that the words were of a "ceremonial and patriotic nature" and did not constitute an establishment of religion.
I find this an amazing interpretation.  God, with a capital 'G' is only God to three Abrahamic religions.  What about Hindus?  What about us poor, tormented atheists and agnostics?  What about the Pagans and Wiccans?  If this is not clearly an endorsement of the Abrahamic religions I don't know what is?  Perhaps if it was argued that God also applied to Islam, then maybe the Repuglicants would be more willing to remove it from the Pledge.  After all, it is really only Christianity that they are trying to promote with respect to freedom of religion.

Here is the good part though.  In order for the Court of Appeals to have ruled in this way, it was more than likely that the attorneys arguing for the "ceremonial and patriotic nature" of God were being paid by Christian organizations.  Think about that for a second.  Christians arguing that their God, with a capital 'G', is nothing more than a figure meant for a "ceremonial and patriotic nature."  I don't know.  If I were a Christian, I would find this upsetting.  Perhaps as an Atheist, I should applaud this ruling because it completely minimizes God to nothing more than a symbolic Sky Fairy.

I should note that the Newdow case seems to have some interesting legal arguments associated with it as the arguments are not directed at Congress' legislative action directly, but at the school board's policy with respect to the Pledge.

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