As soon as the last bell rang and the recording of attendance was completed, we all stood up like miniature soldiers with our hands over our hearts ready to do our duty as citizens of the greatest country in the world. The instant Mrs. Schultz turned her back on the class to face the flag and begin the reciting, though, all hell broke loose.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag...“ On cue, many of my classmates pulled out milk carton straws to pummel each other with spitballs that left nasty welts on our arms and faces. Being caught in the crossfire of these gooey little missiles could be fearsome. Sometimes a headshot could even smack a victim in the eye or draw blood. It was great fun.
“one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.“ By the time Mrs. Schultz turned around toward the students, each of us was back in our original pose, gazing respectfully at Old Stars and Stripes.
Despite my seeming lack of patriotism in first grade, I favor recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in our public schools every morning - but without the word God inserted. As a lifelong Christian, I feel like the only non-atheist citizen of the United States who agrees with the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to ban God from the pledge.
Politicians have been dubiously tripping over themselves to appear more outraged than their opponents. “Nuts“, was the way Tom Daschle described the decision. “Ridiculous“, according to President Bush. There isn‘t any question the decision will be reversed if public opinion has anything to do with it.
George W. Bush also had this to say, “The decision points up the fact that we need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God.“ Huh? Mr. President, our legal rights come from the people as set forth in the preamble of the Constitution (“We, the people of the United States of America, etc.“), not God. What we really need are common-sense presidents who will take time to read the Constitution.
The Constitution purposely omits the word God in its entirety including amendments as the founding fathers were loath to blur the separation of church and state. The only mention of religion comes in the First Amendment where it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...“ Bush‘s misguided notion that legal rights come from God is probably a reference to the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson‘s writings of our Creator and liberty in the Declaration may inspire us, but that document has no legal authority in the United States - zero.
If Bush is correct that our rights were derived from God, we really need a divine authority such as the Bible to replace the Constitution. Since it might be difficult to determine whether we were a Catholic or Protestant nation, we could follow the British example and officially become an Anglican country (oops, I almost forgot - religious intolerance is why many of our ancestors left England in the first place). Maybe Osama bin Laden had the right idea after all: the Koran could also be a suitable authority in a theocracy form of U.S. government, ending most denominational squabbling.
Seriously, if you believe in God (polls show 93% of us do), you should join me in supporting removal of God from our pledge. The court made the right decision: religion should not be promoted anywhere in public schools or government institutions. Any attempts by government to put God in the public domain, to fund religion with tax dollars, and - yes, even inserting God in our Pledge of Allegiance are all acts of hostility against religion and should be rebuked. Such misguided interference chips away at arguably the most fundamental principal of our nation‘s existence: separation of church and state.
Even while spending significant time dodging spitballs in elementary school, we children knew inherently the importance of our country‘s flag. As a child, I also knew that my religious education came from my family and attending weekly Sunday school. Forcing the word God in the pledge is unconstitutional, goes against the wishes of our founding fathers, and is just plain wrong.
When public schools begin leading our children in religion, the day has come for Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike to find another school or bring their kids home. Tolerance for all beliefs in God and opposition to government mandated religion is why our founding fathers fought to the death to launch this great nation.