Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Pledge Project: Audience Participation

I have a question from the studio audience that I have been sitting on for a week now because I could not find a way to fit it into the discussion.

It’s time to introduce that question.

I am hoping for the changes in the pledge and US currency to be achieved. But to be completely honest, I hate sitting around and hoping for others to do and fight for beliefs or the right to not have any....what can I do? What can I do to be more involved, to be more informed, and to be part of the change instead of just watching it happen?

Let me answer this by stating what I intend to do, and what you can do to help if you are so inclined.

I expect the 9th Circuit Court to release its opinion on or after June 26th. At that point, for the next week or 10 days, the nature of this blog will change considerably.

I have already asked for and received permission to be off work from June 26th to July 6th, so my days will be free. I will be spending those days monitoring the national debate on the 9th Circuit Court opinion, directing readers to what is being said, where, and by whom.

For the sake of those who subscribe to this site by email, I will be using my other blog, Atheist Ethicist Journal, to monitor the day-to-day activities once the Court decision is released.

What I would like you to do is to go to those places and introduce arguments into the debate that have been missing for the past 50 years.

Where somebody objects to 'the secularist's goal of removing all mention of God from the public square', I want you to go there and say, "Under God has never been about allowing God in the public square. It's always been about keeping atheists out of public office. If people want to mention God in the public square they can say the Pledge without 'under God' and add 'so help me God' at the end if it pleases them to do so."

If they complain about atheists "offended by every mention of God," I want you to go there and say, "I'm not offended by the mention of God. I'm offended by the fact that the government thinks every citizen who does not support 'one nation under God' is as bad as a citizen who does not support 'liberty and justice for all'."

If they say that religion is necessary for morality and that removing God from the school is the source of all evil, I want you to go there and answer, "Mr. X is guilty of moral chauvinism – the crime too many religions are guilty of where they say that 'those who belong to my church are morally superior to those who do not."

If they complain about the minority imposing its will on the majority, I want you to go there and ank, "Would you see nothing wrong with a community that happens to be 85% white adopting a community pledge of allegiance to 'one white community'? Would you see opposition to such a pledge as a minority trying to force its will on the majority?"

If they speak about posting 'In God We Trust' in the civic center or the classroom, I want you to go there and protest, "I do not think that it is appropriate for a law-abiding citizen to have to walk into a classroom or a government building and see a sign on the wall that says, 'If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us.'"

If they speak about showing respect for those who fought for our freedoms, I want you to go there and answer, "Some of those who fought for our freedoms did not believe in God. Yet, you want to compare those who do not support 'one nation under God' to those who do not support 'liberty and justice for all'. That's not a show of respect. That is an insult. Unlike you, I insist on showing respect for all of those who fought and died for our freedoms, not just that fraction that happened to share your religious belief while insulting those that did not."

If they speak about how the Pledge is non-discriminatory because students are free to leave the room while others give the Pledge, I want you to go there and answer, "I can think of no better way to teach children that atheists are unpatriotic then to conspicuously exclude them from a pledge of allegiance." Or, alternatively, I want you to ask, "If we have a Pledge of Allegiance to one white nation, but black students were free not to participate for personal reasons, would you argue that this eliminates all trace of prejudice from such a pledge?"

If a candidate says that the Pledge and the Motto does not call into question the moral character or the patriotism of atheist citizens, I want you to call for that candidate to put this on the record by voting for a resolution that says, "The fact that a citizen does not trust in God, or does not support one nation under God because of a lack of belief in God, in no way diminishes his moral character or patriotism."

The goal of this project is that, by the time the public discussion of this issue dies down again, we have introduced a whole new set of arguments into the public debate – arguments that have been sorely missing or underrepresented in the past 50 years. These are arguments that do not mention 'separation of church and state' or the First Amendment or the Constitution. These are arguments that do not care about the intentions of the founding fathers. These are arguments about how a government ought to treat its peaceful law-abiding citizens.

I am not saying that those other arguments are bad arguments. I am saying that I trust that those arguments will be adequately represented in the public debate. They will be used by people who are not familiar with this blog. They will be used by people who are familiar with and comfortable with those arguments. My hope is to augment those arguments with arguments that have so far gone largely unheard – moral arguments of the type that I have been presenting in the Pledge Project.

From the time the Court releases its opinion, through the July 4th weekend, 'under God' and 'In God We Trust' will be front page news. I want to use that opportunity to introduce them to arguments that they will almost never get a chance to see under any other circumstances. This is a short window of opportunity, and it will not come again until the Supreme Court decides the issue probably in the year 2010. We need to use this window of opportunity to inject these arguments into the debate now to have any hope of influencing that decision.

I would like you to monitor the news during those seven days and send me reports on who said what. In those reports, tell me

(1) Exactly what was said. (Provide exact quotes in context.)

(2) Who said it.

(3) Contact information where readers can go to respond to what was said.

I want you to take advantage of this information as I post it on this site to take advantage of that contact information to present the arguments that have made up the Pledge Project.

I want you to solicit the help of your friends, relatives, and group members who share an interest in these issues and this project.

Our focus is going to be on the mainstream media – on people who, if they hear these new arguments, will be able to present them to a wider audience. Our focus will be to get national news agencies to ask their invited quests and political candidates, "What do you think about the argument that ‘under God’ in the Pledge has to do more with keeping atheists out of public office than with mentioning God in the public square?"

Or, to ask a defender of 'under God', "You say that 'under God' is not an endorsement of religion. Would you say that 'liberty and justice for all' is also not an endorsement of liberty and justice for all?"

Or, "Do you think that it is fair for the child of an atheist to have to sit in a classroom where there is a sign on the wall that says, 'If you do not trust in God, then we do not consider you to be one of us'?"

That's the goal of this project.

Before I go, I want to conclude with a couple of side notes.

First, this is not a conflict between Atheists and Christians. A person can be a Christian and still appreciate that it is wrong to hang a sign in city hall or in a classroom that says, "We do not consider a person who lacks trust in God as being one of us." This is true in the same way that a person can be white and still disapprove of hanging a sign in city hall that says, "We do not consider a person who is black as being one of us."

A person can be a Christian and appreciate that it is wrong to have a Pledge of Allegiance to 'one nation under God' in the same way that a person can be white and appreciate the wrongness of a pledge of allegiance to 'one white nation'.

In fact, a few of these people have already written in comments and emails endorsing the Pledge Project.

All these people need to recognize is the right of all peaceful and law-abiding citizens to the equal respect of their government.

Second, while links to my site are flattering, it is best to put the argument itself in your communications directly, rather than to do so with a link to this cite. Most people do not follow links. If you do not present the argument in your communication, then the readers you are trying to reach will not see that argument. You need not give me credit in your statements. This is not about credit. All that matters is that you get the arguments out there.


Tommykey said...

Well, in case you haven't noticed, I made a suggestion here.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


I liked your video.

Your suggestion is what made me think that I need to reopen Atheist Ethicist Journal. Readers of this blog have come to expect essays, and I want to keep delivering on that expectation.

Atheist Ethicist Journal will allow me to organize and keep track of this and other suggestions.

Tommykey said...

BTW, I have my own video up now!