Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Pledge Project: What to Do?

I have been writing in recent days about the importance of objecting to 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto.

What are we going to do about it?

Here is what I want you to do.

I want you to go to some public forum somewhere – write a letter to the editor, post a comment to a relevant blog, enter a relevant online discussion, stand up on a soap box in a shopping mall, address your local city council or school board – and make a statement like the following:

'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance has never been about allowing God in the public square. It has always been about excluding non-religious people from public office and all aspects of civic life.

Perhaps adding the phrase:

And I can prove it.

I will get to that proof in a moment. I first want to make some preliminary remarks by answering the question, "Why should I do this?"

For the past 50 years, while secularists have been hiding behind judicial robes, sectarians have been out in the public concealing the real nature of these policies in a fog of rhetoric and misconceptions. They have been so successful that even secularists are having trouble seeing the real nature of these policies.

They have framed the debate in terms of allowing God on the public square, and portrayed their opponents as being enemies of freedom of speech, enemies of freedom of religious practice, and enemies of freedom of conscience.

Secularists, in the mean time, have been using legal (not the moral) principle of separation of church and state as if it is some sort of trump card. They have acted as if merely putting this card on the table will convince everybody (or at least a substantial majority) that these policies must be rejected. They have not noticed how 40 years of unanswered sectarian propaganda have turned 'separation of church and state' into something so distasteful in the eyes of the majority of Americans that it has no power anymore.

There are a lot of ways to change a law, other than by passing legislation or Constitutional amendments. One way is to simply change what the words mean. "Separation of church and state" is on its last legs in this country. People have been throwing it into battle after battle without taking even a moment to tend to the wounds it has received. When it falls, every principle of government that has been thrown onto its shoulders will fall with it.

We can see the death blow coming. I wrote about it last month in the post, A New Constitutional Test for Religious Liberty, where I reported that the Supreme Court may be near to adopting a new test for First Amendment cases. Called the Coercion Test, this test renders everything permissible except direct coercion - fines and imprisonment for failure to participate in a religious ritual.

It is time to quit hiding behind the judicial robes (because they will not be there for us to hide behind much longer) and to take the debate to the people themselves in moral terms, not just legal terms.

The moral issue is that 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto posted on the money, in government buildings, and (particularly) in school classrooms are part of an attempt to use the government to promote hostility against peaceful citizens based on their religious beliefs and to put nearly insurmountable barriers between those 'infidels' and elected public offices and positions of public trust.

The Proof . . .

I can prove that 'under God' is not motivated by the simple desire to mention God in the public square or to honor the values of the founding fathers. It is actually easy to do.

When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they wrote an oath for public office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

There is no mention of God in this official oath. In fact, the Constitution explicitly prohibits a religious test for public office.

. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

However, they left officials free to add any religious addendum to their oath of office that they would be comfortable with. When George Washington took the oath of office for the first time it is reported that he voluntarily appended the phrase "so help me God" to the end.

An option that both honors and respects the intention of the founding fathers, and that allows for a mention of God in the public square, is one in which the Pledge itself does not mention God or make any religious reference, but one in which citizens are free to tack onto the end the phrase "so help me God" or any other phrase that suits their particular, individual, beliefs. Or to add nothing at all.

Since this both allow the mention of God in the public square and honors the founding fathers, it should be suitable to anybody who has these goals. If somebody does not find this option suitable, we may assume that she has something else in mind - some other value that 'under God' fulfills, but 'so help me God' does not.

That value can be found in the fact that 'under God' written into the pledge equates those who do not support 'one nation under God' with those who do not support 'with liberty and justice for all'. It puts a barrier between those who do not believe in God and public office by equating belief in God with patriotism and patriotism with fitness for public office. These are the values that keep 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance - not 'honoring the founding fathers' or 'allowing God into the public square'.

Unfortunately, we have allowed sectarians to use these smoke screens without the slightest challenge so, now, the vast majority of the population have come to think of their claims as unquestionably true. Certainly they must be true if nobody has questioned them.

The facts that we need to establish are that "Under God" and "In God We Trust" were passed 50+ years ago to promote public hostility against atheists and to put a nearly insurmountable barrier between them and public office and positions of public trust. They were made a part of school rituals and civic life to encourage children to look down on anybody who did not favor 'one nation under God' - Soviet Communists in specific, but all atheists in practice.

These are morally objectionable practices quite independent of any legal arguments. These practices will remain immoral regardless of any changes made in the law. The law, in this case, can only be made more or less just.

It is time to remind the secular community of these facts so that, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases its decision, the secular community can take advantage of the opportunity to make the rest of the country of these facts.

The ultimate goal is that, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases its decision, there are people out there asking a new question that exposes aspects of this case that have long been buried. "What business does the government have teaching children that those who do not support 'one nation under God' are as bad as those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all', and using this to put political barriers between law-abiding citizens and public office and positions of public trust?"


Anonymous said...

Yes, it had nothing to do with people, right or wrongly, thinking that they had to promote and respect their deity. It was instead a vast conspiracy against atheists!

Surely there is plenty of scientific proof showing how the Knights of Columbus got "under God" added to the pledge to help fulfil their dastardly agenda.

Citizens, don't be fooled if you see the Knights of Columbus marching in a parade or wherever. Rest assured that they exist to promote public hostility against atheists!

Alonzo Fyfe said...


You did not actually read the posting, did you?

If you had you would have read the part where I addressed the issue of a conspiracy (that 'under God' was a part of a cpnsiracy the same way that 'separate but equal' was).

You would have also read the proof whereby I suggest that the Knights of Columbus could have promoted respect for their deity the same way that George Washington did when he took the oath of office - by voluntarily adding 'so help me God' to the end of the pledge.

Why did they choose 'under God' instead?

All of this is in the posting that you should have read before you commented.

Anonymous said...

The Knights of Columbus originally added it for their own meetings. They got it from Lincoln's "this nation, under God" portion of the Gettysburg Address. Atheists would not have been in attendance for these meetings.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Even as a statement made at private meetings it is a statement that means 'this nation, without atheists' - and wholly inappropriate as a national pledge.

Anonymous said...


I remember you once writing about how the U.S. was turning into a theocracy.

If you'd like to describe what this will look like, and make a prediction of when it would happen, I'd be more than willing to make a significant wager that it will not happen, assuming your definition isn't trivial.

I will give you all my personal information and give you the means to verify all of it. A third party can hold the money. I'm not wealthy, so money means a lot to me.

I just can't believe you, who I consider to be quite brilliant, actually believe some of this stuff. I also think the hyperbole is irresponsible, which is my real reason for wanting to call you out on this.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Thanks for the compliments. But, even Sir Isaac Newton had his bad ideas - like his belief that you could turn lead into gold using horse manure and egg yokes.

As for the rest of it, I do not hold that America will turn into a theocracy as a part of some immutable natural law. There are a lot of variables involved - including the variable of people actually taking action to object to policies such as a pledge that equates those who do not favor 'one nation under God' with those who do not favor 'liberty and justice or all'.

It is my hope that people will decide to spend some time and effort preventing bad states of affairs from being realized and, thus, actually succeed in preventing them from being realized.

Yet, it does take a willingness on the part of the people to act. I am certain that a lot of Jews in Germany in the late 1920s were saying, "Let's just keep a low profile and hope this will all blow over."

You cannot look at history and say that humans have an uncanny ability to avoid creating situations where large blocks of people are subjected to grossly unfair treatment. History tells us that humans are able of doing great (unjustified) harms to other humans.

Show me that it can't happen, and that good people need not do anything to prevent it from happening because there is some natural force that prevents large-scale harms from being suffered by innocent people.

If there is anything in my writings that you can't believe that I believe, I invite you to point out specifically what it is and what evidence suggests that I am mistaken. I am more than happy to view evidence and to either over my counter-evidence or accept the evidence against me.

Perhaps (and I very often see this happen), what you think I believe and what I believe in fact are not the same thing - but I am not explaining my position clearly enough.

mikespeir said...

Personally, I see the right approach as undermining, rather than bombarding, the castle of religion. Educating people--each of us in his own way--will be like water seeping beneath and dissolve its foundations over time. That way we avoid much harmful cultural conflict. It's more of a cold war than a hot war.

But, as I mentioned in the other thread, this will take time and patience. I can hold out. Unfair as it is to place references to God on money and in the Pledge, it's really not making my life significantly more onerous.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


I feel compelled to repeat that my objections to 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' have nothing to do with undermining religion, any more than objections raised to a pledge of allegiance to 'one white nation' would be anti-white.

Though I hold that religous beliefs are false, there are a large set of false beliefs that are NOT religious. Religous false beliefs run a range from harmless to catastrophic - as do false non-religious beliefs. Objections should be raised to false beliefs according to harmfulness, not their religious content.

The moral priciples that I am writing about - (1) that governments may not engage in a campaign to teach malicious falsehoods about a group of peaceful and law-abiding citizens, particularly to young children,and (2) governments may not engage in a campaign to create barriers between peaceful citizens and public office of positions of public trust based merely on religoius beliefs, are principles worthy of defending regardless of religious sentiment.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


And another thing . . .

You think that 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto is not making your life onorous. However, I invite you to open your eyes and look around you.

You cannot run for public office with a reasonable chance of winning regardless of your moral character and your understanding of the issues. The President of the United States has said (without being challenged) that you cannot be appointed to be a judge. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that promotions and assignments are based substantially on religious beleifs. Atheists are considered the least moral of individuals - and it is absurd to believe that this does not affect the employment and advancement opportunities of individuals in any field outside of academia (where a critical mass of atheists probably mitigates these prejudices).

Now, in the days when women were denied opportunities for education or employment, girls probably grew up not wanting these things - because it saved them frustration later in life.

As a result, they did not find restrictions on women to be particularly onerous. They simply learned not to want the those things that men did not permit them to have. Unfortunately, this probably had the effect of perpetuating discrimination against women (and a monopolization of family, social, and political power in the hands of men) for far longer than it would have otherwise lasted.

IsThatLatin said...

My understanding of the addition of these religious phrases into our pledge and onto our currency was that it was an effort of curb the supposed Communist threat. You know...those dang godless Commies. If that was the case, it was indeed a comment against their supposed collective atheism. The problem with that tactic is that not only was it against those godless Commies, it was also against those godless Democrats, godless Republicans (I'm sure there's a few), godless insert-your-political-affiliation-here.

It never should have happened, but it did, and now, 50 years later, the dangerous Commies have been swept under the rug and what we have left is an insult to millions of atheist Americans.

So, yes, I would say it was and is certainly an attack on atheists in this country. It needs to go the way of the Dodo.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Unfortunately for many of them, lots of girls grew up wanting things they were denied. That's why we have historical examples of girls and women pretending to be boys or men.