Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Student's Right Not to Pledge

A report on Fox News [sic] discusses a move by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to require schools to inform their students that they have a free-speech right to refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. It is a Miranda Warning for children that they have the right to remain silent.

(See: Pledge of Confusion? Schools Wrestle With Flag Policy in Classroom.

But supporters of the Pledge insist that the words are both constitutional and an important part of our national heritage.

"There has been a recurring effort by the ACLU and others to try to stop the Pledge of Allegiance from being said. The fact of the matter is that the American people like the Pledge of Allegiance, they like it the way it is," Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, told FOXNews.com.

"The teachers are government employees, their paychecks are paid by the taxpayers, and the American people support the Pledge. I'm with the American people," Schlafly said.

The internment of Japanese Americans in World War II was extremely popular as well. So was segregation, when America was a segregated nation. The right to enslave others was worth dying for, 150 years ago.

In fact, internment, segregation, and slavery were also important parts of our national heritage. A person who tries to understand American history without ever studying slavery and race relations will never understand American history.

We can go even further and note that it was quite possible to say that those who supported slavery and segregation were "with the American people" – but only in the sense that one did not consider those who were the victims of this bigotry were not really 'American people'.

Hitler was popular, and definitely "for the German people" - those he considered to be properly German, anyway.

But, then, that's the whole point of this religious bigotry. Religious bigots want to spread the message that those who do not share their religion are not real Americans. They want their religious bigotry to be the national motto, and they want children in public schools each day to pledge that they, too, will be religious bigots.

They want to decorate every public ceremony and every public building with the message that those who do not support a nation under God or trust in God – like Japanese Americans in World War II, like slaves, and like segregated blacks before them, are not 'real Americans'

It is a bigotry that plays out in creating a filter that is 99.99% effective at keeping atheists out of public office (where decisions on using schools to promote religious bigotry are made). It puts atheists at a disadvantage in winning custody of their children because atheists cannot be good parents, and in seeking patrol (or even acquittal) in court cases because atheists cannot be moral. It denies atheists opportunities in the military because atheists cannot be loyal Americans and forces atheists to hide their beliefs in public out of fear of the harm that would be done to their peers and relationships in society at large.

The question is not whether this is popular or has historical significance. The question is whether good people would support them. Good people would not support slavery. They would not support segregation. They would not support something like the Japanese internment during World War II. They would not support making religious bigotry the national motto, or mandating that public schools encourage children to take a pledge to be religious bigots.

I think that telling students, "You don't have to pledge to become religious bigots if you do not want to" is a great idea.

3 comments:

Eneasz said...

Fox News [sic]

I see what you did there, and it was awesome. :)

Luke said...

I do so enjoy a good use of [sic].

Michael Lawson said...

I was the Business Professionals of America president at my VoTech campus when I was in HighSchool, and I was asked to lead the student body in reciting the pledge of Allegience, and I said I could not. And when they asked why, and I told them, they looked at me like I'd just shot a deuce on the deck. I've never felt such discrimination, before or since.