Before this month is out, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will release decisions on whether 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the national motto violate the Constitution.
The Pledge Project is an attempt to introduce a set of moral arguments against these practices to add to the legal arguments that we often hear when these types of cases make the news.
I am already several days into the project. However, since this is the first of the new month, I want to make sure that readers know about the articles that appeared last month.
Acting Against Anti-Atheist Bigotry: This post introduced the Pledge Project and the main moral consideration – that 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" as the national motto serve as a nearly impenetrable barrier between atheists and secularists on the one hand and public office and positions of public trust on the other.
The Atheist Burka: Many atheists and secularists are comfortable with the current Pledge and Motto. I argue that this is true in the same way that some women are comfortable wearing a Burka and being denied basic freedoms. This is the effect when we introduce people to prejudice at a very young age.
Priorities: Why is the Pledge Project important? One reason is because there are children who may become atheists who should not be denied the opportunity to serve in public office and positions of public trust. Another is that people who do not believe in God have important contributions to make on all sorts of issues from stem cell research to global warming to matters of health. We should not have a society where only those who pledge allegiance to God are considered eligible to decide how to deal with these issues.
What to Do: This post argued for getting the word out – for making people aware of the moral arguments and encouraging people to be ready to use them when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases their opinions.
Offense: Those who defend 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' will almost certainly protest about secularists who offended by any mention of God in the public square. This post answers that spin by saying, "Mentioning God in the public square does not offend me. Having the government teach children that a person who does not support 'one nation under God' is as anti-American as one who does not support liberty and justice for all offends me." It then provides an argument that utterly defeats the 'offense' claim.
House Resolution 5872: In this post, I use the moral arguments against 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' against House Resolution 5872 – a resolution to issue a commemorative coin that will raise up to $3.5 million for the Boy Scouts. I argue that the government has no right to fund classes to teach young children that atheists are incapable of the best type of citizenship – which is what the Boy Scouts claims.
Explaining Bigotry: A survey in 2006 showed that atheists are the least trusted Americans – the group that most Americans will say does not share their values. This post argues that the best explanation for those observations is that the Pledge teaches children that Americans who do not support 'one nation under God', and the motto teaches children that Americans who do not trust in God, do not share our values.
Atheists are Untrustworty: Ron Lowe, an Mason in Idaho, explained in a news article that atheists are not allowed to be Masons because, "If you're an atheist . . . your word means nothing, so you have someone whose work cannot be trusted."
In God We Trust – America: In God We Trust – America is a group that is dedicated to having the national motto, "In God We Trust", posted in every government building and, in particular, in every city council.
Resolution Respecting Atheists: If members of a legislative body should try to claim that the Pledge and the Motto are not meant to denigrate those who do not believe in God, I propose getting them to vote on a Resolution Respecting Atheists. This resolution requires the legislator to actually vote that failure to say the Pledge or a lack of trust in God in no way implies a lack of moral character or a lack of patriotism.
A Memorial Day Dilemma: Where does one go on Memorial Day to honor a father who made the military his career, when one's father was an atheist, and almost all ceremonies begin by saying that soldiers who do not support 'one nation under God' are as bad soldiers who do not support 'liberty and justice for all'?
The Case of David Habecker: David Habecker was a city trustee in Estes Park, Colorado, who was recalled in a special election because he would not say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Sit Down and Shut Up: An advertisement from a Ford dealership in California said that those who oppose 'under God' in the Pledge and "In God We Trust' as the national motto should sit down and shut up.
Respect in Minnesota: A Minnesota school board is debating a rule that requires students to stand during the pledge, because all students should be required to show respect to the flag. But why should a student show respect for the claim that 'Americans who do not support 'one nation under God' are as bad as those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all'?
Freedom of Speech: This post looks at the concept of freedom of speech. I assert that the right to freedom of speech is a right to freedom from violence, not a right to freedom from criticism. In the case of the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto people are asserting this right where it does not apply – against people who have not violated it.
Apologies and Excuses: This post looks at the distinction between apologies and excuses. It provides lessons to look at in determining whether somebody is actually apologizing for a wrong done, as opposed to merely offering excuses. It also points out that a sincere apology does not exist unless the person apologizing offers some sort of compensation (or restitution) for the wrongs done.
Three Related Stories: This post covers three news stories related to the Pledge Project: Philadelphia ending a subsidy for the Boy Scouts, a Zoning Board commissioner in New Hampshire who is refusing to say the Pledge, and a city trustee in Wisconsin who is refusing to say the pledge. It looks at the types of claims being made in these disputes.
This is it so far.
My official predication is that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will release its decisions on these two cases on June 26th.
My official prediction is that if atheists and secularists are not able to throw some moral arguments into this debate when the news flares up – and do so with such volume that those arguments actually get heard – the effect of this decision will be to end church-state separation.
There is already a movement to end the "Lemon Test" used to decide church state issues with a "Coercion Test", which will legalize all church-state relationships that fall short of actually compelling a citizen to attend a church service. (Though bribing a citizen to attend church services would not count as coercion.)
So, I want you to join me or the Pledge Project. I want you to join me in helping to make sure that, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals releases its decisions and the debate erupts, as many people as possible hear a new set of moral arguments against 'under God' in the Pledge and 'In God We Trust' as the motto.
Between now and then I will be continuing to present those arguments.
Arguments that it is wrong for the government to teach young children that people who do not support 'one nation under God' are as bad as those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all'.
Arguments that it is wrong for a government to post a sign in city hall or on the money that says, "The government suggests that you think of a person who does not trust in God as not really being one of us."
Arguments that it is wrong for a government to involve itself in a campaign that aims to create a barrier between peaceful law-abiding citizens and public office and positions of public trust based solely on a belief about whether one or more gods exist.
More to come.