Monday, August 6, 2007

Texas Pledge Inserts 'Under God'

Houston Chronicle, August 2 2007

Texas students will have four more words to remember when they head back to class this month and begin reciting the state's pledge of allegiance.

This year's Legislature added the phrase "one state under God" to the pledge, which is part of a required morning ritual in Texas public schools along with the pledge to the U.S. flag and a moment of silence.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who sponsored the bill, said it had always bothered her that God was omitted in the state's pledge.

"Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, 'You know what? We need to fix that,' " said Riddle, R-Tomball. "Our Texas pledge is perfectly OK like it is with the exception of acknowledging that just as we are one nation under God, we are one state under God as well."

By law, students who object to saying the pledge or making the reference to God can bring a written note from home excusing them from participating.

But adding that phrase has drawn criticism from some who say it's unnecessary and potentially harmful to children who don't share the same religious beliefs. "Most Texans do not need to say this new version of the pledge in order to be either patriotic or religious," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "This is the kind of politicking of religion that disturbs many Americans, including those who are deeply religious."

The revised wording in the Texas pledge took effect on June 15, and the Texas Education Agency sent an e-mail reminding school districts about the change earlier this week.

Officials with Houston-area districts say they will notify schools and parents about the new requirement.

Rebecca Suarez, spokeswoman for the Houston Independent School District, said a letter about the change will be sent home to parents when their children return to school. And a flier with the pledge's revised wording will be sent to each campus before classes start.

Texas has had a pledge of allegiance since 1933. In 2003, the Legislature required all schools to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags and observe a moment of silence every morning at the beginning of classes.

Texas isn't the only state that has its own pledge of allegiance. Other states include Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky.

Mississippi and Louisiana mention God in their pledges. And Kentucky lays claim to being blessed with "grace from on High."

It saddens me to see that, far from removing the phrase 'under God' from the national Pledge of Allegiance, there are legislatures now actively ADDING these words into state pledges.

Regardless of your own theistic or atheistic leanings, there is absolutely no reason to edit this phrase into a mandatory pledge except as a means of asserting or ascribing superiority of a political entity (the state) to a specific religious one (God.)

The original phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge in 1954, at the height of the Cold War and at a time when American life was dominated by conflict with the Soviet Union. Like Rep. Riddle, President Eisenhower saw 'a gap' in the pledge. After hearing a sermon, Eisenhower initiated a bill to change the pledge:
"Last Sunday, the President of the United States and his family occupied the pew where Abraham Lincoln worshipped. The pastor, the Reverend George M. Docherty, suggested the change in our Pledge of Allegiance that I have offered [as a bill]. Dr. Docherty delivered a wise sermon. He said that as a native of Scotland come to these shores he could appreciate the pledge as something more than a hollow verse taught to children for memory. I would like to quote from his words. He said, 'there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life.' Mr. Speaker, I think Mr. Docherty hit the nail square on the head."
Unfortunately the politicians of the era had misinterpreted history. "The characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life" was not belief in God, but rather the freedom to believe in God. What set America apart from the Soviets was not that we had religion and they did not, but that we had a freedom to choose our religion and they did not. And freedom of choice, of course, means freedom to worship Elohim, Yahweh, Allah, Brahman, the Goddess, Apollo or the Flying Spaghetti Monster--or none at all. Ascribing America's position as a superpower to the Abrahamic God is not only historically incorrect but insensitive and unconstitutional. For political reasons, however, the phrase was included in the daily pledge recited by millions of schoolchildren every day.

Not only has this phrase not been excised, but religious groups--including former president G.H.W. Bush!--have used it to persecute atheists, polytheists, pluralists and other assorted non-Christians by claiming that "This is one nation, Under God" and so members of the aforementioned groups are unpatriotic or not considered citizens. This is clearly in conflict with the concept of religious freedom established in the Constitution, which every politician is sworn to uphold.

Recent challenges to the mandatory Pledge recitation have met with success, though efforts to remove the phrase entirely have made little progress... and given the direction this country's governing bodies are moving in, will likely remain in place for some time. Students are no longer required to pledge, nor do they need a note from home. However those who object to the Pledge itself, or its content, are made conspicuous as dissenters which probably has a chilling effect upon their decision.

Rep. Riddle, and the rest of the Texas legislature, seem totally oblivious to all this history. The new law not only requires the mandatory pledge of both National and State pledges, but puts additional emphasis on the phrase "Under God" and requires notes for those who wish to opt out. All three are unconstitutional, all three are infringing upon students' rights, and all three serve more to bring us closer to our enemies' states of mind than they do to distance us from their ideology. Americans everywhere should regard the flippant consideration given this bill and the ease at which it passed into law as deeply disturbing.

5 comments:

PeteO said...

Just a quick postscript. Jesus Himself recommends against making oaths, to a government, to God, to yourself, or any other entity. See Matthew 5:33-37.

Joseph McCullough said...

Today, Monday August 27th, was my first day of school, and it started off rather bizarre. While reciting the Texas Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of my 11th grade year, there came a point in where the announcers over the intercom and the class were off sync. Through the off-sync babble I was able to catch "Under God", and I proceeded to let out a deep sigh.

124-5
That was the tally.

Only 5 citizens in the Texas senate know what the intentions of our founding fathers were
Only 5 citizens comprehended the potential division and potential antiquation of democracy this bill could insinuate.

Only 5 citizens with the capability to oppose this bill did.

At first I couldn't fully grasp the unity of pledging to my country because I had to mute a line of those honor-filled lyrics while my peers continued on since that line agreed with their religious beliefs.

Now even my state is doing its best to deprive me of that unity true patriotism brings.

My fellow Americans,
Patriotism is not how many times you can get your God or Gods listed in a legal document.
Patriotism is not how many times you can get your God's name spoken out loud by the children of society,
And Patriotism is not labeling a citizen to be more ideal based upon religious beliefs, such as saying

" ... (the bill) will acknowledge our Judeo-Christian heritage by placing the words 'under God' in the state pledge," *

The 124 who supported this bill will all say this should not be at the center of conflict because there is no way of showing it will cause division.

To those 124, I ask, when you say the bill will acknowledge our Judeo-Christian heritage...

Are you not implying that those who do not agree with Judeo-Christian doctrine are not apart of this great country's heritage?

This country has become a country of the greatest irony. The beast we escaped in order to establish this country is the same monster we are becoming.

*Source: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/
metropolitan/4774748.html

Susanne said...

I just have to say that (as a teacher myself) I hate saying the Texas pledge. It's the stupidest thing EVER!

Anonymous said...

I am a student in Texas. The pledge was changed right before I started kindergarten. At the time I was a christian, but only because christianity was everywhere and I was too young to see that there were other options. The changing of the pledge only did more to brainwash my five-year-old brain into believing that christianity was what I should believe in. Even though my parents aren't religious and they never took me to church, I still believed that I was a christian because I was exposed to so much christianity at school. Today I am an atheist and I proudly omit "One nation, under God" when I say the pledge.

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