Restore the Pledge of Allegiance

[I wrote the original version of this rant and had it ready to upload one week before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that reciting the pledge in public schools was unconstitutional. Really. I swear to God. —JoT]


It's time to restore the pledge of allegiance to its original form, without the phrase "under God."


We added "under God" to the pledge in the 50s. Back then, we were locked in a climactic struggle with the godless Communists, and aligning our republic with God was the patriotic, anti-Soviet thing to do. It made sense.


But now the godless Communists are no longer a threat, and Russia's economy has officially been declared a market economy. These days, our nation is under attack by devout worshipers of God, people who think it's God's will that they massacre civilians. Claiming that God is on one's side in a global struggle has lost some of its charm.


The phrase "under God" seems to suggest a generic belief in a deity, but it actually supports a particular, hierarchical attitude toward God. The phrase is "under" God, rather than "trusting in" God, "founded on" God, or "abiding in" God. The metaphor of God being "above" us is important to those who want to use religion to wield power over the populace. If God is understood to be "above" the common people, then there's room for priests and religious leaders to find a niche below God but above the rest of us. Understanding God to be within us or as the "ground of being" doesn't support religious leaders being above us. So the phrase "under God," purported to be an uncontroversial statement of faith, is actually a subtle ploy in support of religious hierarchy.


Besides, the phrase is a hack. The pledge was written to read "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The text makes sense and scans. Jamming "under God" in there weakens the content and hinks up the rhythm. Say it out loud both ways and see for yourself.


Finally, the ironic thing about the phrase "one nation, under God" is that it's nominally unifying but effectively divisive.


So let's restore the pledge, differentiate ourselves from our enemies, stop promoting religious hierarchy, and promote good scansion.


June 2002, August 2004

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Pledge of Allegiance in the News

October 2005

Pledge Unconstitutional Again
Once again, Michael Newdow had gotten a 9th-circuit judge to rule the pledge unconstitutional. Last time, the Supreme Court dodged the issue, but this time around two of the judges who chose to punt are gone (Rehnquist and O'Connor). Maybe we'll get a real answer this time around.