Don’t want “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Then your kids are free to keep quiet while the rest of class does its patriotic duty.

That, in short, is the popular answer when someone objects to the words “under God” in the school ritual — as one New Jersey family did, it was announced this week. That leaves two unappealing options: Swear an oath you don’t believe in, or be ostracized from your classmates.

Both are unacceptable — and examples of why “under God” should be stripped from the pledge.

The Matawan-Aberdeen school district in Monmouth County, which is being sued by an atheist family, says it’s legally required to conduct the Pledge of Allegiance, but students may opt out. That’s a poor solution. The pledge’s language forces nonbelievers, such as the plaintiffs, to either a) contradict their personal religious beliefs, or b) stand silent and call a child’s patriotism into question.

Read the rest here.


When I read in the news that an atheist organization is challenging the continued presence of the words, "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance, I'm encouraged.  When I see that same challenge become part of a newspaper's editorial stance, I become VERY encouraged!  The New Jersey Star-Ledger may not be the New York Times, but any adoption of an atheist stance by significant media is a welcome event to me.

Let's hope it's the shape of many more such things to come.

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Replies to This Discussion

Loren, I agree that the editorial is encouraging. I don't know that I would call it an atheist stance, so much as I would a pro-American stance. And by that, allow me to quote President Theodore Roosevelt.

To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. 

Great quote, Pat.  Another way to put it might be to say that they CONCUR with an atheist position or are supportive of it.  That by itself is a VERY big deal to my mind, and I'm hoping it's reflective of a change in the public view of atheism, at least in New Jersey.

It occurs to me, too, that David Silverman calls The Garden State home.  You suppose he had anything to do with this?  [chuckle!]

David Silverman? What are the odds?!

I think the odds are pretty good, actually! [grin!]

Pat, may I repost your response on Tweet, with attribution to you, or to anonymous? 

Please do

I Twitted the article with attribution to you. May I Tweet your response? 

Joan, if you don't know by now, I can't help you!  [grin!]

OK, from today on, I won't ask you. I will simply post and attribute, knowing full well you approve. Got it!

Please be sure to tell me if you change your mind!!!!!

But if you get feedback (positive or negative) and you don't tell me, You Go To Bed Without Supper!!! [chuckle!]

From the US Supreme Court case recognizing a right to remain silent during a group pledge of allegiance:

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.

In 1940 the Court had ruled that children were required to participate in a public school's group pledge, even though saluting or pledging allegiance violated the childrens' religious beliefs. Officials threatened to send non-conformist children to reformatories for juvenile delinquents, and in one week alone the Justice Department received reports of hundreds of physical attacks on Jehovah Witnesses. Witnesses' meeting places were burned and their leaders driven out of town.

In 1943, reversing that ruling, the Court held that the flag salute was a form of speech and the government could not compel citizens to express beliefs without violating freedom of speech.

Source: The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions, 1999, p. 191 and pp. 330-331.

I have heard, but do not have a cite, that a federal appellate court in Florida ruled recently that people need not stand during group pledge recitations.

This whole Pledge business seems to have much more importance to adults (from city council meetings on up) than it does to children.  When I was in elementary school (before the "undergod" was added), we used to race through the damn recital just to get it over with....the way Catholic kids still recite the rosary.  Daily repetition made it meaningless.  I was in high school when "undergod" became mandatory, and some of my teachers were visibly upset about the ruling. 

And the silly, childish Pledge was/is still meaningless.

Do other countries have such a custom...pledging allegiance to what is essentially a battle banner?



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