October 14, 2003


Supreme Court Takes on Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (Fox News, October 14, 2003)

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance recited by generations of American schoolchildren is an unconstitutional blending of church and state.

The case sets up an emotional showdown over God in the public schools and in public life. It will settle whether the phrase "one nation under God" will remain a part of the patriotic oath as it is recited in most classrooms.

The court will hear the case sometime next year.

Heard that Scalia recused himself (?), which would be a shame, because his opinion would just be scathing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2003 11:01 PM

Anyone here old enough to remember the original, unmodified pledge? Its writer, a clergyman with socialist leanings (and brother of Edward Belamy, author of "Looking Backward") wrote "one nation, indivisible...".

Congress, during the HUAC hysteria, passed legislation changing the wording. I see it as nothing more than one of those "test votes" intended to show who was a "real American" and who was one of those "pinko-faggot-atheisticommunistic fellow travelers", thus making good fodder for the next campaign season.

Sorry, but my opinion is that kids (and adults) have better means of demonstrating patriotism and love of country than the forced recitation of some shibboleth many don't understand in the first place.

Posted by: bear, the (one each) at October 15, 2003 12:51 AM

The odds are that the case will be decided on the grounds that the plaintiff, who is the father of the child, but who never married her mother and does not have legal or actual custody of the child does not have standing to bring the case. The mother and the child have announced that they are church-goers and that they like the pledge the way it is.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 15, 2003 12:59 AM


Schools have no more important task than rendering good citizens.

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2003 1:13 AM

Schools have no more important task than rendering good citizens.

Then let the schools return to teaching the nation's heritage of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, et al. Teach the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The pledge is, again in my opinion, not that big a deal in the big picture.

Or, go through the pledge phrase by phrase and explain and discuss it with the students. Just mere recitation for the sake of it strikes me as silly; making it mandatory under fear of punishment strikes me as being opposed to what this country stands for in the first place.

Posted by: bear, the (one each) at October 15, 2003 4:12 AM


Please give us one example of a school that punishes or has punished or will punish a student for not reciting the pledge.

Posted by: Buttercup at October 15, 2003 6:57 AM

A 1945ish Supreme Court decision prohibits mandatory recitation of the Pledge.

But the pack mentality of elementary school kids, directed at one who chose to sit it out, is nothing to sneeze at.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 15, 2003 7:39 AM

Why do they recite the multiplication tables?

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2003 8:02 AM

Well, the multiplication tables are objective mathematics while the pledge is a recitation of asubjective opinion on the American idea. Aside from objective science, after all, everything is relative. History, tradition and the institutions which make the USA the USA are only symptoms of an unjust power arrangement which maintains those arrangements. If we are ever going to create a rational society we need to do away with all of those irrational traditions which maintain the base/superstructure realtionship and unjust class divisions. The idea of "one nation, under God, with liberty, etc." has got to go.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 15, 2003 11:09 AM


Congress passed a resolution putting "under God" into the pledge.

Does that fall afoul of "Congress shall pass no law regarding the freedom of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." (disclaimer, that is the best I can do from memory)?

If they mandated the Nicene Creed in place of "under God" would that be a violation?

I suspect the answer to the latter would be an unequivocal "Yes."

The former, probably "No."

But only because its effect is so trivial as to be invisible to all but the most persnickety.

If I was religious, I think the last thing I'd want my supreme being's name to become is so much verbal wallpaper.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 15, 2003 12:46 PM

Well Jeff, we will need to revise many of our founding documents and legislative and judicial traditions as well.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 15, 2003 1:45 PM

I'm not a huge fan of the pledge, because I'm not even sure what it means to pledge my allegiance to a flag. But saying it puts me in a patriotic mood, and I make sure my children know it, say it when appropriate and know how to behave while it's being said. Regardless of the content, these public ceremonies are important.(We were at the circus the other day, and I was unbelievably proud to see that my ten year old stood up and put his hand over his heart when they brought out the flag for the national anthem.)

None of this has anything to do with the constitutionality of the "under God" language. What Congress is forbidden to do is make any law "respecting an establishment of religion." Putting "under God" in the pledge, or "In God we trust" on the currency, or any of these things, is not an establishment of religion. An establishment requires a tax-supported church and religious tests for public office.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 15, 2003 2:30 PM


So anything short of a tax supported church doesn't constitute establishing religion?

How about a law mandating everyone go to a Church on Sunday? Or mandating reciting the Nicene creed in place of the pledge? Surely the bar is a little lower than fully supported state religion.

Freedom of religion is meaningless unless it includes freedom from religion.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 15, 2003 9:28 PM

If the taxes supported all churches it would be Constitutional and, of course, the individual states can support just one..

Posted by: OJ at October 16, 2003 12:41 AM

That's funny, I thought the text said "...establishing religion..." not "...establishing a religion ..."

If you think the word "is" has specific meaning, than so does "a," and its absence yields a whole different meaning.

Its not just any particular religion, but religion period.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 16, 2003 7:33 AM

I agree with bear.
Pledging devotion to a scrap of cloth, especially by people too young to know what they're mouthing, seems to have as much to do with rearing good citizens as dressing up as George Washington for Halloween.
If it's so important, why don't we make the same pledge when joining the military, or assuming office ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 16, 2003 7:48 AM


You mean those times when our public officials make their oath on a Bible? I George W. Bush do solemnly swear...

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2003 8:05 AM


You forget that I think that an established church would be perfectly Constitutional, so long as it was established by a state and not the federal government.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 16, 2003 10:04 AM


You're wrong. Churches or religious sects are establishments. The first amendment prohibits the federal gov't from passing laws respecting religious institutions. In combination with protections for speech it's meaning is clear and really quite specific.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 16, 2003 10:53 AM

I guess that means we have to add a new meaning for the word "religion" to the dictionary.

I had always thought that the Founders had great respect for the words' meanings, and if they meant institutions, they would have said "religious institutions."

Silly me.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 16, 2003 12:50 PM


What do you think "an establishment of religion" is? I agree that the framers were careful in their use of language.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 16, 2003 1:02 PM

How much more careful were they supposed to be than the precise use of the words "an establishment"?

Posted by: OJ at October 16, 2003 1:44 PM


George Bush said the Pledge of Allegiance upon taking office ?

I don't care if "under God" is, or is not in the pledge, I think the entire pledge is silly.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 17, 2003 2:32 AM

Whether the pledge of allegiance is silly is not the issue. The power of the court to regulate it is. As a traditional part of morning assembly in many schools it serves a role. It is a form of speech which happens to mention "God". If the court says its recitation is unconstitutional on that basis it is making the statement that the theistic underpinnings of our system are invalid as well. At best equating theism and atheism as a basis for the country and its legal system. Such a view is historically incorrect and many believe damaging in the longer term to the relationship that exists between the citizen and the state. Historically, governments which believe that there is no power above itself have brutally treated those below.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 17, 2003 9:19 AM


No, he swore an oath to God on the Bible. I have no problem with it if you'd rather kids do that in school, which is de facto constitutional.

Posted by: oj at October 17, 2003 9:46 AM