By David G. McAfee
“I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Odds are that you are not familiar with this version of our traditional “pledge of allegiance”. The pledge was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 as a flag raising ceremony and salute for the celebration of Columbus Day in 1892. This pledge was quickly adopted as our national pledge of allegiance and it became customary to begin every school day by reciting it. Bellamy’s pledge however, was changed by congress in 1954 in order to advance religion in America and to protect against the growing threat of communism, a form of government in which a dictator suppresses all form of religion in order to make him appear as the most supreme being. The pledge, which continues to be recited nearly every day in public schools funded by the government, continues to be one of the most controversial issues involving separation of church and state.
In a particular court case involving this issue, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, the plaintiff, Michael Newdow, sued the Elk Grove Unified School District because he believes it is a violation of the Establishment Clause to enforce the recitation of a pledge that includes the words “under God”. The Establishment Clause states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This clause, located in the Constitution, was upheld in the first case declaring Newdow the winner of the suit. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, where the justices decided in favor of the Elk Grove Unified School District because they found that Newdow, who was divorced from his wife and in the middle of a custody battle for his daughter, did not have legal standing, or right to represent, his daughter because he did not have full legal custody of her. Mr. Newdow stated that he believes there will be many others with legal standing who will rise to challenge this atrocity. I believe that this prediction is correct and that we will see another case in the Supreme Court debating the validity of “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. For now, however, this debate continues to rage across America and throughout the American judicial system, and our public schools continue to recognize a supreme being to children who, in some cases, may not have the same monotheistic way of thinking.
The Principle America Was Built Upon
The attitude of many early Christian missionaries who helped shape today’s society, was that of Christian superiority. Most of these early settlers sought to destroy any Native American who refused to convert to Christianity. The idea that you should destroy something simply because of your own ignorance or fear of anything that is different from what you know is what I am standing against. I believe that violence should not be justified in any way, especially by using something that you hold “sacred”, such as a religion or spiritual belief. Manifest Destiny is the archaic belief that many Americans shared in the early 1800s that it was America’s “destiny” to control the entire North American continent. To many early American settlers, this meant that it was God’s will that the United States of America expands its territory from the east coast to the west coast. These early Christian “Puritans” thought that, by colonizing the west coast, they would bring their Christian values and ideals to the “uncivilized” native residents. In actuality, what they brought instead was death, disease, and many other hardships focused mainly on the Native American “savages” that inhabited much of this area during that time. Manifest Destiny was far too often used as a tool of justification for cruelty and unethical treatment of the Native Americans. These Natives were thought of as inferior beings because of their lack of organized religion and primitive lifestyles. This foundation of Christian superiority in America has continued with every President of the United States being Christian and in some cases, thanking Jesus for America’s greatness. George Bush states his belief that God is watching over America by saying “Our Founders thanked the Almighty and humbly sought His wisdom and blessing. May we always live by that same trust, and may God continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.” The “God is on our side” attitude has carried over into our military actions, it is often said that God is watching over our soldiers and it is God’s will to spread our democracy. When I hear these words from our elected leaders, I cringe in disbelief of how history does, indeed, repeat itself. I think of the tribal Native Americans, I think of every war and taken life justified using God’s name.