Making children say the pledge of allegiance over and over is “teaching them history.”

October 2, 2009 | By | 38 Replies More

I remember how, back in the 1960’s,  I was forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day in grade school. Those were the days when we had nuclear bomb drills: we lined up and marched to the school basement, where we would presumably be safe from the fallout of atomic bombs. Some of my neighbors even had bomb shelters dug out in their yards.

Image by Crafteepics at Dreamstime (with permission)

Image by Crafteepics at Dreamstime (with permission)

Based on my own experience, children don’t like saying the pledge. It  is mind-numbing to children; as proof, consider that you never see children saying the Pledge on their own.  They only say the Pledge when they are forced to do so by insecure adults.  All honest and rational people know that the children say the pledge only because they are forced to do so.  All honest people also know that one can be a patriot without ever saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  As proof, none of the following people ever said the Pledge of Allegiance:  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine . . .

Here is some more history about the Pledge: It was created in 1892 and it didn’t originally contain any reference to “God.” The phrase “under God” was added in the late 1940’s and made popular through the 1950’s.

Fast forward to 2009.  Many public schools force their students to say the Pledge of Allegiance each day. In addition to being mind-numbing, the Pledge forces children to acknowledge the existence of  “God.”  But isn’t it unconstitutional to allow government employees to force children to acknowledge “God”?  No problem, according to a recent decision by the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire.   According to the Court, the phrase “under God” merely recognizes “the historical fact that our nation was believed to have been founded under God.”  You see, when we force the children to say the Pledge, we are (according to the Court) “teaching” them about what people in the past used to believe. How can it be that a Pledge that is written entirely in the present tense is somehow teaching children about something that happened in the past?  This kind of reasoning should get an “F” in law school.  In its long, contorted and evasive opinion, the Court invokes a state law “Patriot Act”:

The New Hampshire Pledge statute is titled “New Hampshire School Patriot Act.” RSA 194:15-c. The statute’s own words describe its purpose as continuing “the policy of teaching our country’s history to the elementary and secondary pupils of this state.” RSA 194:15-c, I. That is a secular purpose.

Note further that, to the extent that the Pledge is about history, it is false.   “Liberty and Justice” were not “for all,” for long periods of our history.  Many of our people were enslaved and denied any voice in our government.  As “history,” the Pledge is facile and absurd.  Children should be taught real history rather than be forced to stand up and repeat the same phrase over and over.

The Court also held that saying the Pledge (including the words “under God”) has no religious meaning, because it does not “thank God” or “give gratitude to God.”  It constitutes “benign deism,” which, according to the Court, is not really about religion.

When Congress added the words “under God,” to the Pledge in 1954, its actual intent probably had far more to do with politics than religion — more to do with currying favor with the electorate than with an Almighty.

The Court concluded that the phrase “under God” is not religious, but merely an “historic artifact.” With this reasoning, saying the “Our Father” is also about history, not religion.”  The Court came to this opinion even though the Pledge requires children to acknowledge the existence of God.   This is a religion assertion with which many millions of Americans fervently disagree.

The Court further held that making children say the Pledge is not “coercion,” suggesting that little children had the power to decide not to participate.  According to the Court, recitation of the Pledge is to “enhance instruction in the Nation’s history.”  I guess it’s official now.  Making children recite the same vague things over and over is “teaching them.”  and having them acknowledge God is teaching them “history.”  And putting the pressure on 8-year olds to affirmatively opt out of saying the Pledge when most of their classmates are too scared to do otherwise is supposedly giving them a “choice.”

I suppose, then, that if a public school in Detroit were to make children recite every day that the United States is “one nation under Allah,” that this would not be religious, but merely a history lesson, “teaching” the children about the beliefs of some of the people who have lived in the United States.

This Federal Court’s decision is about the most dishonest legal opinion since Plessy v. Ferguson.   It’s a classic case of drawing the curve, then plotting the data–it is a perfect example of results-based jurisprudence.   What an honest Court should have admitted is that the government is prohibited by the First Amendment of the Constitution from taking any position on whether “God” exists, and that the Pledge (written in the present tense) is a clear assertion that a supernatural being named God exists.

I’m not arguing that no one should say the Pledge.   If someone can find a wayward child who, entirely on his/her own, wants to say the Pledge instead of playing at recess, have at it.   As far as requiring groups of children to say it together, save it for churches.

See this related post:  Religious Rituals are Adaptive Because they are Onerous.


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Category: Culture, hypocrisy, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (38)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    THOUSANDS of schoolchildren are being forced to sing an alternative version of the Australian national anthem that installs “Christ” as the country’s head of state and removes any reference to the Southern Cross.
    In a move that outraged parents’ groups have labelled “disrespectful”, some 50 Christian schools of mixed denominations have replaced the second verse of Advance Australia Fair with the lyrics, which begin, “With Christ our head and cornerstone, we’ll build our nation’s might”, for school assembly renditions.

    Read more:

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Further to Leatherneck’s post, the fact is that those who do America’s shooting are taking their orders from politicians who “sat around and did nothing but ran [their] mouth as usual.” Indeed, people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc., made lots of money (personally) by giving those orders. Meanwhile, many of these ‘leaders’ also opposed spending increases for, among other things, veterans’ benefits. So, as Erich points out, when corrupt people give the orders, there is no free pass. Pulling a trigger does not make a person smart.

    For much the same reason, it also does not make a person morally superior to those who don’t pull triggers.

  3. Karl says:

    The only fools in this regard are the ones who let their governemntal leaders and personal friends receive any personal or corporate gain beyond a years salary from their “service to their country.”

  4. jeff weaver says:

    Whoever said that the justice for all clause is contradicitve is an idiot. Last time I checked, slaves were not considered American, thereby excluding them from justice. Even before they were considered citizens, there was justice for some. It was only after full citizenship was granted, did they gain full rights to the judicial system. Discrimination aside, as it’s a product of social interaction, justice was attainable for all. Even african americans.

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