Bottom line: as long as the Declaration of Independence exists, it will be legal to talk about God in public school.
Something called the American Humanist Association is suing a school district in New Jersey to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
The AHA contends that the very existence of the Pledge “marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots.”
If the lawsuit is successful, and “under God” is banned from the Pledge in this school district, it will be banned in the entire state of New Jersey. This, of course, would mean that the students who are happy to recite the Pledge would then be the marginalized ones, silenced by one intolerant bigot who wants to impose his view of morality and religion on every student and school in the state. There is nothing remotely American about any of that.
One student is firing back by retaining an attorney from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. This attorney points out that the Pledge is entirely voluntary on the part of students, none of whom can be forced to recite it.
She adds, speaking of the AHA and its initial suit, “Where they’re wrong is the words “under God” are not a religious statement but they’re a statement of political philosophy. It was our Founding Father’s understanding that our rights don’t come from the state but they come from something higher than the state.”
Several observations are in order. First, I disagree with the first half of the statement from the Becket Fund attorney here, who is certainly fighting on the side of the angels on this one. But she is simply wrong when she says that “under God” is not a “religious statement.” It most emphatically is, and there is no need to apologize for that or try to finesse it.
Including a religious statement in our Pledge is perfectly okay. We don’t need to pretend it is a only a political statement in order to justify it. The implication of this attorney is that if it can be demonstrated that “under God” is religious in nature, it has to be thrown out.
No, it is both religious and political, and we shouldn’t hesitate to say so.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders grounded our entire political system on a religious concept, on the conviction that there is in fact a “Creator” who is the source of every single one of our unalienable human and civil rights.
Government’s job, according to our founding document, is not to grant rights but to “secure” those rights that have already been given to us by God.
The Declaration, although cavalierly dismissed by God-ophobic secular fundamentalists, is the most important legal document in our history since it brought the United States of America into being. The Constitution was built on the sure foundation of the Declaration. No Declaration, no United States; no United States, no Constitution.
So God is embedded in the core of the most important legal document we will ever have. God is not an afterthought in the Declaration, or some ancillary figure who is not central to the narrative, he is the hero of the piece. He is central to our understanding of what it means to be America and what it means to be an American.
It will, therefore, always and forever be appropriate that we acknowledge Him frequently in public and political settings as well as in private.
The words “under God” were added to the Pledge in 1954 by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower. In other words, it is the will of the American people, through our elected representatives, that God be acknowledged in our Pledge.
It’s also worthy of note that the Pledge is entirley consistent with New Jersey’s own constitution, which acknowledges God and our dependence upon him in its very first words:
“We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
As the Becket Fund attorney pointed out, saying the Pledge is strictly voluntary. No student can be forced against his will or conscience to recite it. The pro-choice crowd, in other words, ought to love it. But no, the anti-liberty fascist bullies of the left want to impose their view of morality on the rest of us and take away our freedom to recite the Pledge if we wish. That’s about as un-American and unconstitutional as you can get.
Bottom line: as long as the Declaration of Independence exists, it will be legal to talk about God in public school. And as long as the Declaration of Independence is legal, it will be perfectly right and proper for every school day to begin with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Founders would agree.