Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pledging Allegiance

I recited the pledge of allegiance on my first day at a public school, repeating the words mindlessly and putting my hand over my heart as the teacher had instructed. No one informed me that I had the right to not say the pledge, and certainly no one told me how ridiculous it was to pledge my allegiance, my loyalty, to government. Government is an institution that exists only to protect my rights to life, liberty and property. Shouldn't it be pledging its allegiance to me, and not the other way around?

Instead, we're quibbling over the phrase "under God," a phrase which provides an exit clause for many who believe in God: when the government is in conflict with God, their allegiance remains with God, not with government. Some religions prohibit any oath of loyalty to the state, regardless of whether they simultaneously state that their loyalty is dissolved when the state makes laws prohibiting their religious practice. Maybe politicians and judges should read the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The Declaration, containing references to God, morality, Providence and principles, was about absolving people of allegiance to government. It was not intended to replace the British rule and demand allegiance to a new government.

Rather than arguing over the phrase, "under God," maybe we should be addressing the constitutionality of a pledge of allegiance to government. Establishing the worship of the state is no accomplishment.

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