Justify the Pledge...

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by vyse5090, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. vyse5090
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    vyse5090 Rookie

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    Dear Sirs,
    I am a college student in Seattle and I am running into a dilemma. I am a part of an American Government class at my school and we have been divided into groups to argue different sides of mock Supreme Court Cases. The case I have been assigned to is worded as follows: " Is it a violation of the Establishment clause to require elementary school teachers as a matter of policy, to lead their classes in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase, "Under God.""
    My group is arguing that it is not a violation, but we are not having much luck finding any support for our side of the argument. If you have any suggestions as to angles that we could take or resources we can utilize it would be greatly appreciated.

    Robert
     
  2. random3434
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    random3434 Senior Member

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    Hello Robert!

    I am an elementary public school teacher.

    Our school (over 700 students) has some students say the pledge every day over our loud speakers. The students then stand up, and say the pledge, or don't. We don't make them say it, and there is nothing said to them if they don't, it's their choice.

    So we in fact aren't MAKING them say the pledge, it's an option for them.


    (by the way, I do stand with my hand over my heart and say the pledge, but I know there are other teachers that don't. Again, it's their CHOICE! )

    Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions. I think there is a thread on here somewhere about this.
     
  3. frazzledgear
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    frazzledgear Senior Member

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    I would argue it is in no way a violation of the Establishment clause on several grounds.

    1. First of all the clause forbids federal government from establishing a national religion or favoring one religion over another. (Many people are unaware that the Constitutional restrictions were actually intended only on federal government, not state governments which had all the powers of an independent nation except for the few powers they agreed to turn over to federal government in exchange for the benefits of joining the Union like national defense, international treaties etc.) It does NOT forbid federal government from encouraging or acknowledging the religious faith of its citizens. It sure doesn't say that all employees of government forfeit their own rights by getting hired either. In fact, the Federalist Papers -written to explain why certain parts of the Constitution were written as they were and the importance of them to the founders -shows the founders believed a citizenry with religious beliefs was the very backbone of a moral society and that government had an obligation to acknowledge, respect and ENCOURAGE religious beliefs. Just without CHOOSING or forcing a particular religion on its citizens.

    The Establishment clause does not mean government must remain neutral between ALL religions on one side and atheism on the other. It is ordered to remain neutral only between RELIGIONS. Atheism isn't a religion at all. Which should mean that if government must choose to between all religious beliefs and atheism -it favors religious beliefs. The Establishment clause is not a demand that government itself be atheistic -only that it be a SECULAR one. "Secular" only means "not ruling by the authority of any particular religious doctrine". It does not mean "atheist". It in NO way forbids government from acknowledging a Supreme Being. Not unless someone on the other side of the debate wants to argue that the Declaration of Independence is "unconstitutional" for referring to "the Creator". Just as many religions believe in a Creator as believe in God -so is that a declaration that somehow "establishes" an official, government chosen religion it is "inflicting" on all citizens too? How can anyone rationally argue that if government acknowledges a Supreme Being or Creator it becomes an official "religion" where others are somehow being FORCED to join a federally chosen church or FORCED to worship that Creator? By merely hearing a TEACHER mention it? It somehow becomes federal government officially CHOOSING a religion or forcing citizens to participate in religious activity? There is no "right" to not hear someone else mention God -even if it is a teacher who mentions the word. Even if it is an entire branch of government which does. Which is why the Senate opens its new session with PRAYERS, why the Supreme Court opens arguments with a prayer that calls for "God save the United States and this honorable Court". As several Supreme Court justices noted, the mere mention of "God" does not turn something into a PRAYER. Our coins have "In God We Trust" -yet it is not a prayer or considered to be in violation of the Establishment clause either. Merely not liking the mention of God does not turn anything into a prayer and the "establishment" of a government endorsed religion.

    2. The Pledge -with or without the phrase "under God" -is a CIVIC exercise, not a religious one. And at all times entirely voluntary. The inclusion of the word "God" does not somehow pressure students to involuntarily participate any more than not including the word.

    The Constitution demands that government remain neutral only between the religions. In fact, it could be argued that a government that never acknowledges God has officially chosen atheism as a religion and is no longer neutral at all. Which is FORBIDDEN by the Constitution. It elevates the lack of ANY religious belief ABOVE any and ALL religious beliefs. But government is ordered to remain neutral BETWEEN the religions and not required to even acknowledge the lack of religious belief at all beyond not forcing atheists to join a religion or participate in religious activity. So if government officially chooses ATHEISM as its official "religion" - then it is no longer neutral BETWEEN the religions at all, huh? Not if "atheism" is government's choice of what reigns supreme in the nation. In fact, if government is atheist, it makes ALL religions subservient -which means it can only squash ALL religions and religious beliefs instead of protecting it -as it is specifically ordered to do in the First Amendment!

    3. Government is in violation of the Establishment clause when it becomes OFFICIAL government policy that a particular religion is preferred over all others or government favors only one over all others financially or with regard to the tax code, grants etc. But a teacher cannot and does not create official government policy. A civic exericise does not establish an government endorsed religion either. So that teacher cannot be giving an official government endorsement to any religion by leading students in a civic exercise that happens to mention the word "God".

    A teacher works for a public school which is financed primarly by taxpayers of that school district with the next greatest monies coming from state government and then federal government. But a teacher cannot establish government policy either on the state or federal level. Which means if a teacher engages in ANY activity that parents of the kids in his/her class object to, whether a religious one, political indoctrination issue or some kind of immoral activity -it isn't a Supreme Court issue at all. Even if some parent objected to this civic exericise -whether this civic exercise should continue in that school remains first a local and then state issue. And if it goes that far, the decision at the state level should decide this issue -not the Supreme Court.

    4. I've heard the silly argument that by using the word "God" that somehow infringes on the "right" of those who believe in multiple gods or Wiccans etc. Not true. It merely acknowledges the beliefs of the overwhelming vast majority. We live in a democratic republic -and it IS rule by the majority with protections to prevent TYRANNY by the majority over the minority. Not to prevent the rule of the majority. "Tyrrany" is an abuse of power and oppression of others -preventing the minority from exercising the identical rights the majority have. It is NOT every possible acknowledgement that someone happens not to be in the majority with regard to every single possible issue. Acknowledging the beliefs of the overwhelming majority in a civic exercise is not tyrrany at all since there is no "right" to not hear the vast majority who hold that belief acknowledge God during a civic exericise -and no one is being oppressed or abused by government. It doesn't prevent the Wiccan from practicing their rites or believing whatever they want just because a teacher led the Pledge that included the word "God" and the Wiccan's kid actually HEARD that word! There is NO "right" to not hear stuff you may not agree with in this country whether it involves religious beliefs or political beliefs. It isn't "tyranny" any more than if a Wiccan hears the Supreme Court open with a declaration of "God save the United States and this honorable court". Wouldn't that means the fact Presidential Inaugurations always includes prayers is some kind of constitutional violation? But it ISN'T. But demanding that we have a government that says the majority must sacrifice each and every time in all things, including this -is actually a demand for a government that not only allows the tyranny by the minority but ENCOURAGES it - and sets a far more dangerous precedent.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  4. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    What if the pledge included the words "under Allah"?

    Would you insist that children had to recite it then?

    I rather doubt it.
     
  5. Epsilon Delta
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    Epsilon Delta Jedi Master

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    I remember when I first moved to the US as a wee 5th grader and couldn't understand the whole pledge thing at first, since all we'd do in Costa Rica was sing the anthem during civic events. Didn't really want to say it, but I don't remember what the policy was. I don't remember if everyone HAD to say it, but I didn't. Even at 11, I wasn't going to pledge allegiance to a foreign power. :lol:

    EDIT: Oh yeah, the actual question. Well, some of the obvious that come to mind are to create uniformity and cohesion, as the entire process of nation-building, to inculcate from early on the allegiance that is key to State power. Without national symbols and pledges to rally around the total subordination to state power would be much harder. You know, all that sort of thing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  6. frazzledgear
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    frazzledgear Senior Member

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    If the US had been founded by a pack of people who worshipped Allah and those of all other religions were the minority, and those people had made the very same specific protections for those who did not belong to the religion of the majority -I would feel the same way, sorry. When in Rome......

    1. We have a democratic republic -which means rule of the majority with protections in place to prevent the TYRANNY of the majority over the minority. It sure doesn't mean tyranny of the minority over the majority or that the majority must pretend they aren't the majority, does it? It doesn't mean the majority must forfeit the rights the Constitution also gives THEM. Everyone has the RIGHT to acknowledge God any time they want -and there are no restrictions regarding the piece of land they happen to be standing on when they do either.

    If someone isn't being FORCED to participate, FORCED to join a religion, FORCED to participate in religious activity -then their rights have been fully observed. But where in the Constitution does that mean the majority must pretend they aren't the majority and that they are constitutionally restricted from acknolwedging God on state or federally owned land or buildings?

    2. With or without the inclusion of the word "God", it still remains a CIVIC exercise and not a religious one.

    3. The guy was asking for help arguing his side of the debate -not whether you wanted to take up the debate on the other side. And not whether these arguments would actually win the entire debate. But given the fact the justices pointed out some of these very points when hearing arguments on this issue -such as the fact the mere inclusion of the word "God" does not turn the Pledge into a prayer and it is still a civic exercise that is at all times voluntary - they are legitimate points to argue.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
  7. AVG-JOE
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    AVG-JOE American Mutt Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I would say that any public organization that forces a reciting of The Pledge, including the phrase 'one nation under God' does border on establishment... Who or what 'God' is was given by the framers of the constitution to the smallest unit of government authorized to operate in America, individual families.

    The true issue lies in how it is enforced. If education or other government services are denied because someone is unwilling to acknowledge the concept of 'God' then I think the spirit in which the constitution was framed is violated.

    If the students are not given a choice in using the phrase, it should be explained to them and their guardians that the definition of 'God' will specifically not be provided by the school and the guardians should be required to fill that void.

    Obviously, this is the opinion of only one average Joe.

    -Joe
     
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  8. José
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    José Gold Member

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    The Establishment clause is part of a historical, 200 year old document.

    21th century secular states do not allow any blatant manifestation of religion inside state facilities like the pledge or school prayer because these are activities unrelated to teaching that almost always exposes non religious people and religious minorities to an unpleasant situation.


    But nevermind...

    Let's keep treating the American Constitution as a Holy Book that cannot be altered instead of turning America into a FULLY FLEDGED, MODERN SECULAR STATE that protects its non-religious citizens and religious minorities from this kind of embarrassing situations.
     
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  9. YWN666
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    YWN666 Freelance Beer Tester Supporting Member

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    That is nonsense. The absence of religion does NOT equal atheism. The installation manual for my Kenmore dishwasher doesn't mention God once. Does that mean it is an atheist dishwasher???

    Our government does NOT demand in any way, shape, or form that god does not exist. It is neutral on the subject and should remain that way.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2008
  10. YWN666
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    YWN666 Freelance Beer Tester Supporting Member

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    The Pledge with the phrase "under God" links patriotism with belief in God and relegates non-believers to outsider status. The Pledge worked for us for many years without the phrase and it can work for us again without it. If you feel the need to insert "under god" while you're reciting the pledge, no one is stopping you.
     

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