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October 3, 2005

One Nation Under Whom?

Esmé Deprez

      September 14, 2005, a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco declared the mandatory recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public school unconstitutional. Sacramento doctor and lawyer Michael Newdow brought forth the case on behalf of three parents and children. This is the second time that Newdow has appeared in court for this issue; he filed a similar case in 2002 on behalf of his elementary school daughter who was made to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with its religious reference despite being raised an Atheist. Passed by the 9th Court of Appeals in Sacramento and serving as the precedent for this case, it was later dismissed by the Supreme Court because Newdow did not have custody of his daughter at the time.

      For now, the ruling will only affect those school districts in which the plaintiffs' children attend, unless it is affirmed by the 9th District Court of Appeals which will then be handed back to the Supreme Court for a final verdict. The California judge's decision clashes with an August ruling in Virginia in which the 4th Court of Appeals preserved the mandatory recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.

      The framers of the Constitution made separation of church and state one of their first priorities in the Bill of Rights, and nowhere in the Constitution is there reference to God. The Pledge of Allegiance was established so that citizens could proclaim their patriotism, not their religious beliefs. Written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, it included neither "under God" nor "United States of America." "Under God" did not appear until 1954, added by Congress under President Dwight D. Eisenhower "to recognize a Supreme Being." One year later, "in God we trust" was added to U.S. currency and made the nation's official motto, replacing "E Pluribus Unum."

      "In God we trust" is emblazoned on United States currency, "God Bless America" is our national anthem, Congress starts each day with prayer, the Supreme Court begins sessions with "God save the United States and this honorable court," and officials recite "so help me God" when sworn into office. All of these practices worship a Judeo-Christian God, implying that a monotheistic and omnipresent deity exists. This governmental endorsement of religion is in direct opposition to the beliefs of Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Deists, Humanists, and many other citizens who make up a large constituent of the United States. Should we not be sensitive to their beliefs as well?

      An argument similar to one Newdow used in his case is this: would there be opposition to a proclamation used as often and widely as the Pledge of Allegiance if it stated, "One nation, under no God"? The answer to this question is undoubtedly yes, there would be significant uprising and revolt because it is disrespectful to those who believe in God. Thus, does the same not hold true of the Pledge of Allegiance for those who are not trained in the Judeo-Christian school of thought?

      Certainly, it would be a massive undertaking to remove all mentioning of God in governmental establishment. But one could question how it ever became so rampant in the first place. Our country was founded on freedom from religious persecution, and there is supposed to be separation between church and state. Our government should uphold these historic ideals and respect those who think differently from the majority.

Front Page (October 3, 2005)

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