Monday, October 1, 2007

Blame the Atheist Part 1 The Pledge of Allegiance

Lately it seems that some in this country want to engage in a game of "blame the atheist". I will be writing a series of blogs examining some hot issues in this country concerning religious and political issues, starting with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The claim
Atheists are making a big deal out of nothing. They want the Pledge of Allegiance banned because it says "under God".

In Chicago, 11 year old Hubert Eaves, a black student refused to recite the pledge as a protest to Jim Crow laws, and state-approved lynchings. He stated, “I am willing to salute the flag as the flag salutes me,” Hubert was arrested for not showing respect to the flag.
During WWII, in The West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court held that students were protected from being forced to salute the American Flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The students involved in that case were Jehovah's Witnesses, fighting for their freedom of religion.
At the height of the cold war, and American paranoia over Communism, the Knights of Columbus fought to have the words "under God" added to the Pledge of Allegiance. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill adding the words "under God" stating,
In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.
The following exchange takes place between reporter Robert I. Sherman & George H. W. Bush during a press conference:
Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.
Two students are punished for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the American flag. Two atheist students? No, one Baptist student said his faith prohibits idol worship. The other student refused to recite the pledge, raising a fist of defiance in support of his friend, and was paddled for his actions.


In reaction to the September 11th terrorist attacks, Wisconsin passed a law requiring all schools to offer the Pledge or National Anthem daily. The Madison School Board voted to use only an instrumental version of the national anthem so that no student would feel pressured to vocalize the words of the pledge or anthem. Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum responded to this in a press release:
Most Wisconsinites are looking for ways to enhance our armed forces and support our country; some people are looking for ways to diminish our belief in God and country. It is disheartening, but in a free country you have patriots and you have the freedom for a few oddballs who place politics above patriotism.2001
Virginia state Senator Warren E. Barry tries to have school children forced into reciting the Pledge When other Senators object, Barry calls them “spineless pinkos.”2005
17-year-old Cameron Frazier is harassed and punished when he expressed his First Amendment right to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Still think people are making a big deal out of nothing when it comes to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?