“No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers.” -David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association
“No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers.”
-David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association
Beginning each public school day with the Pledge of Allegiance forces non-theistic children to either acknowledge God or stand out as a protestor.
The current language of the Pledge of Allegiance as written in our Federal laws states: “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.”(1) Forty-four states have laws that require public school classes recite the Pledge of Allegiance or mandates to the school districts to set aside time for recitation.(2) Three of the six states without these laws have bills in their legislature to add required recitation.(3) If a child attends public school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, they hear that we are a nation under God 2,320 times.(4) Although the Supreme Court said students cannot be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in violation of a sincerely held religious belief,(5) a daily recitation declaring that the nation is “under God” forces non-theistic students to either deny or speak out on their religious beliefs, exposing them to bias and judgment. The social and political perils of public school identify non-theistic students as peers to be questioned and possibly ostracized. This forces them to choose to violate their beliefs about God to fit it, or stand as a protestor.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance cannot be a truly patriotic exercise while its words violate one of the founding principles of our Constitution.
Federal and state statutes proclaiming the United States of America a “Nation under God” violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a government endorsement of religion. When actions on behalf of non-theistic students are brought before federal courts, most hold that the reference to God does not convert the Pledge from a patriotic exercise to a religious activity.(6) While the Supreme Court has not ruled specifically on the constitutionality of including “under God” in the pledge,(7) they have held that the government may not favor religious belief over disbelief.(8) State laws directing public schools are clear actions of the government and as such, should not favor belief in God.
History and tradition, often cited as support for religious references in government action, support a Pledge of Allegiance without “under God.”
Congress cited the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and references to God when both the House and Senate approved Public Law 107-293 in 2002, a reaffirmation of the Pledge of Allegiance containing the phrase “under God.”(9) However, neither the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy,(10) nor the version Congress recognized in 1942 as the official national pledge of the United States, contained any reference to God.”(11) “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954(12) after the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Roman Catholic fraternal organization,(13) persuaded members of both houses of Congress that the suggested religious exercise may combat the threat of communism.(14) Congress left the original versions of the Pledge and their reasons for changing it out of their reaffirmation’s historical findings.
The inclusion of “under God” in the patriotic school exercise of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance isolates students who question the existence of God. Children are coerced into compliance or forced to protest this unconstitutional, unhistorical, and unnecessary divine reference. Non-theistic children are entitled to a public education without daily disparagement of their religious beliefs.
The Secular Coalition for America believes the words “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.
(1) 4 U.S.C.A. § 4 (West 2002)
(2) See Pledge Statutes State-by-State Document
(3) See Pledge Statutes State-by-State Document
(4) National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey, Average number of hours in the school day and average number of days in the school year for public schools, by state: 2007-2008. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass0708_035_s1s.asp
(5) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). The Court declared that recitation of the pledge violated the First Amendment rights of students who were members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(6) Freedom from Religion Found. V. Hanover Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2010); Croft v. Perry, 624 F.3d 15 (5th Circ. 2010); Myers v. Loudoun County Pub. Schs., 418 F.3d 395 (4th Cir. 2005); Sherman v. Cmty. Consol. Sch.Dist., 980 F.2d 437 (7th Circ. 1992).
(7) U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions by John R. Luckey, Legislative Attorney, February 7, 2011. Available at: http://www.senate.gov/CRSReports/crs-publish.cfm?pid=’0E%2C*PLS%3F%22%20%20%20%0A
(8) County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573, 593 (1989).
(9) To reaffirm the reference to one Nation under God in the Pledge of Allegiance, Pub. L. No. 107-293, 116 Stat. 2057 (2002). Available at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ293/html/PLAW-107publ293.htm
(10) Baer, John. The Pledge of Allegiance, A Revised History and Analysis, Annapolis, Md. Free State Press, Inc., 2007.
(11) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). FN 17 states: “S 7 of House Joint Resolution 359, approved December 22, 1942, 56 Stat. 1074, 36 U.S.C. (1942 Supp.) s 172, 36 U.S.C.A. s 172, prescribes no penalties for nonconformity but provides: ‘That the pledge of allegiance to the flag, ‘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’, is rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart.”
(12) Joint Resolution to amend the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Pub.L. No.396, 83rd Cong., 68 Stat. 249 (codified as amended at 4 U.S.C.A. § 4 (1954)). Available at: http://research.archives.gov/description/5730382
(13) Knights of Columbus Publication, “How the words “under God” came to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.” Available at: http://www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/communications/pledgeAllegiance.pdf
(14) Baer, Chapter 8