Should “Under God” be Part of a Pledge of Allegiance?
Court Rules against removing “under God” from Texas Pledge of Allegiance
The Dallas Morning News reports on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling yesterday against removing the phrase “under God” from the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, allowing it to stay in the pledge.
The phrase “under God” was added to the Texas Pledge of Allegiance in 2007 by the state legislature, to reflect the wording in the US Pledge.
A Texas couple, who describe themselves as “atheists and humanists” had filed suit to have the phrase removed from the pledge, claiming it was an “attempt to impose religion” upon schoolchildren. They claimed it was a violation of “the separation of church and state.”
Counsel for the defense of the Pledge asserted that public expressions of religion are allowed under the Constitution, as long as they are not used to proselytize.
The “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution. It traces back to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, in which he reassured the Baptists that their religious freedom would be protected.
The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting
[regarding] an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging [reducing or restricting]the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The English Parliament passed laws in the 1600s to compel all persons to attend the Church of England. Those who were not members of this church were harshly treated. These laws prompted many persons to come to America to escape religious persecution.
That Congress shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion” or “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” are two rules that fix in place a balance where the government has no authority to tell Americans what to believe regarding their religions and that Americans have a right to express and practice their religions as they see fit. This is a unique set of rights compared to other countries that have national religions. Public opinion polls have shown that the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world.
However, the Supreme Court interpreted these rights not to be absolute. For example, in the 1880s the Supreme Court held that the laws prohibiting polygamy (having more than one wife at one time) prevented practicing polygamy as a religious belief.
What are your thoughts about allowing the phrase “under God” to appear in Pledges of Allegiance recited in public?