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There can be no freedom OF religion WITHOUT freedom FROM government-promoted religion.

In My Creator I Trust
Annette Mayville

I think about words every now and then how words are used in everyday life, and how meaning is conveyed by words. Also, some words can invoke many different kinds of reactions. Take the word “gay,” for example, once used to mean merry and joyous. But over time, meanings change, and when the term “gay” is used today, there is another meaning to that word. Even more frightening is the way words can be rearranged, added, or subtracted in order to change the meaning of what has been written or spoken. A good example is the quote “Play it again, Sam,” which is a famous misquote from the movie Casablanca. The character Ilsa Lund says, "Play it, Sam. ‘Play As Time Goes By.’” Nowhere in the film do any of the characters say the words “Play it again, Sam.” When I hear the “Pledge of Allegiance” today, I think the current version is misquoted like the quotes that supposedly came from Casablanca. Congress in 1954 added the words “under God” to the “Pledge” and forever changed the meaning of it. The words “under God” should be removed from the “Pledge of Allegiance” because the words were not in the original version of the Pledge, as written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. Also, the federal government, by placing those words in the Pledge, established a national religion, which is against the rules set forth by the Constitution of the United States of America, and, furthermore, the words “under God” interfere with the citizens’ personal religious freedoms. Finally, the words add nothing to the Pledge per se.

When I was in grade school in the 70’s, I had to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” every day before the class started. I still remember the words to this day: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.It was the same Pledge that my father learned when he was in school. In my younger years, I was always confused by how people at sporting events would say the Pledge differently. I would hear scatterings of the words “under God” in the Pledge. In high school, I learned the Pledge with the words “under God.” I was confused, so I went home and asked my parents--why was the “Pledge” changed? My father said that he, also, had to learn the Pledge all over again in 1954, when he was still in school. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t learn the Pledge until the early 60’s when she immigrated to the United States from Canada, and my mother learned the Pledge with “under God” because she thought that it was required to gain admission into this country. Then, I asked my parents if I had to say the “new” words “under God.” Both my parents told me it was up to me to decide if I wanted to say the words or not, and, being a teenager, I did what comes naturally to many teenagers; I rebelled against saying “under God.” I would keep saying the Pledge the way I had learned it back in grade school. Larry Witham and Sean Salai, who both write for Insight on the News magazine, wrote about what President Eisenhower said when he signed the bill into law requiring the words “under God”: “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty”. But why add words to the Pledge that its creator had not written in the first place? Besides, the addition of the words “under God” in my view is establishment of a national religion, which is expressly prohibited by the Constitution of the United States.

In learning the history of the United States, I have discovered an amazing and very important document that all of our laws are based upon, the Constitution of the United States. The Framers, as the men who helped created the Constitution were known, had amazing foresight to set forth rules needed to govern the people. At the back of my history book is a reprint of the Constitution, and when I read it, I am amazed at the power of the document. Found in the First Amendment is this passage: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” These are powerful words to behold. Then why did Congress and the President back in 1954 choose to ignore these words? Back in the 1950’s, Communism was THE issue of the day. It was as if a Communist boogieman lurked in every street corner, and the United States President of that era wanted to send a message that he would not have godless Communism in his country. If anyone mentioned Communism, he or she would have been suspected of practicing it. So, in order to combat Communism, Congress passed a bill to alter the Pledge, and President Dwight Eisenhower approved it. The alteration was to add the words “under God” to the Pledge. In 1954 when the bill was passed, many people complained that the change violated the Constitution because the words “under God” now established a national religion.

God is a Judeo-Christian deity, and He is found in no other religion but Judeo-Christian. If a person came to this country from another land and had a different religion that was not Jewish or Christian, then would not he or she feel uncomfortable because this person would have to say “under God” when reciting the “Pledge?” Many immigrants believed as my mother did when she came to this country that the words “under God” would also have to be said in the Pledge in order to become an American citizen. But people in this country are of more religions than just Christians. There are also followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and various other religions. Many of these religions believe in some kind of a creator. But, they have many different names for this creator, and in some religions, it is blasphemy to refer to this creator by any other name than the one used in that religion. Then why were these people left out when it came to changing the Pledge? In my book, the term “God” is strictly Judeo-Christian, and, therefore, what Congress and the President did back in 1954 was in violation of the “Constitution.” Also, I believe that the words “under God” interfere with many people’s personal religious freedoms.

Some people found it difficult to practice religion in public because they were taught by their parents that it was no one else’s business what religion they practice. So, some people find it hard to say the words “under God” because it is in conflict with what they were taught by their parents. Some people feel like they are being forced to endorse a particular religion. Again, what about the Hindi, Buddhists, and the followers of Islam? Does it bother these people of faith to say the words “under God” when reciting the Pledge? How about even the followers of the Christian faith? Some people were taught not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Rodney Clapp, an editorial director whose article appeared in Christian Century, wrote, “If one considers Elk Grover Unified School v. Newdow theologically, with the conviction that God ultimately refers to the Creator-Redeemer met in Israel and Jesus Christ, then the “God” Americans are to pledge their nation to be “under” is at worst an idol and at best the true God’s name taken in vain”. Isn’t that what every Christian follower does every time he or she says the “Pledge”? Elizabeth Cazden wrote to the Christian Century magazine about her views on the Pledge: “I was always a bit uncomfortable with the pledge, even as a child when it (along with the Lord’s Prayer, Protestant version) was a rote part of every school day”. I most certainly feel that way. When I had to lead the Pledge back in high school, I was told I was wrong by my teacher for leaving out the words “under God.” Naturally my classmates assumed that I was an Atheist, and they ostracized me from the group without even asking me why I left those words out. I could not make friends because no one wanted to be friends with an Atheist. I wanted to scream at them: “I am not an Atheist!” But I stuck to my guns and kept saying the Pledge without “under God.” I am patriotic in keeping with the true form of the pledge, and I believe in the separation of church and government. “God” is not some empty, meaningless word to be tossed about on a whim. God, in the Judeo-Christian faith, is the creator of the world.

Other religions do not throw around their creators’ names in a secular way. Why, then, would the Christians allow Congress and the President back in 1954 to empty the scared meaning of “God” when both elected to add “under God” to the “Pledge?” In an article for Smithsonian magazine, Jeffrey Owen Jones wrote of the Knights of Columbus who had lobbied for the addition of the words “under God”: “The bill’s sponsors, anticipating that the reference to God would be challenged as a breach of the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, had argued that the new language wasn’t really religious”. The Knights, who are a Catholic fraternal group, argued: “A distinction must be made between the existence of a religion as an institution and a belief in the sovereignty of God”. Therefore according to the Knights’ argument, the word “God” does not really mean anything and is not a religious word. The Lord’s name should not be taken in vain. Some people do not recite the “under God” part, but they may cringe when they hear someone else recite those words for fear of that person’s being struck down by the Lord himself.

Some would say, “What about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; do not these government documents mention God?” Technically, no, these documents do not mention God. The Declaration of Independence, for instance, says the following: “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.” This was Thomas Jefferson’s way of dealing with the issue of religion—to keep the political document religion-neutral by using “Creator” instead of “God.” Even back then in 1776, there were several different religions practiced in the colonies before they declared their independence from England. And in the Constitution where it reads, “Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present on Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord,” again the word “Lord” was used to keep the document religion-neutral. Both of these documents are fine examples of how to keep political government documents neutral without leaving any religion out. However, the Pledge does not stay neutral with using “God,” which is strictly a Judeo-Christian term. However, President Eisenhower believed that “under God” would make the Pledge more patriotic because everyone would be proclaiming to be for God and country.

The original version of the Pledge that was written by Bellamy is best. Jones reprinted Bellamy’s words: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands-one Nation indivisible-with liberty and justice for all”. Some people may get the sense of the religion-neutral patriotism that Bellamy wanted to convey. Adding the words “under God” does nothing to promote patriotism but instead serves to divide the nation by religions. This division is surely not the intended effect Congress and the President back in 1954 wanted. They added those words to help combat what Congress and the President perceived as God-less Communism trying to take over the United States. My dad said that back then Communist “demons” were thought to lurk in the shadows everywhere, and to even mention the word sometimes got the speaker arrested. Maybe President Eisenhower felt that adding the words “under God” would somehow make the Commie boogieman disappear. No, only time, talks, and negotiations finally broke the Communist curtain that threatened to engulf the world. No longer are we under threat from Communism. “Many pledge proponents offer secular justification to fit Supreme Court rulings. They claim ‘under God’ isn’t any sort of religious exercise or prayer but simply a factual acknowledgement of the nation’s heritage of faith, for patriotic rather than religious reasons” (“Groups Divided”). U. S. patriotism is at an all-time high since the World Trade Center/Pentagon bombing on September 11, 2001. But when some people hear the pledge, they feel patriotic only up until they hear the words “under God.” Then the patriotism is no longer. Instead, some people may get a horrible feeing inside when they hear the Lord’s name taken in vain. For some people, patriotism is celebrating all the cultures and religions that make up this great land called the United States. “Under God” adds nothing to the Pledge but the heartache of dividing a country.

With Michael Newdow’s suing the government to have thewords “under God” removed from the Pledge, many people have come out of the woodwork either for or against the idea of removing those words from the Pledge. Bill O’Reilly, who interviewed Newdow, wrote an article and it appeared in the Fort Worth Business Press. O’Reilly wrote, “I told him that his hatred of religion was fine with me, but that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and the Founders framed the Constitution around God-given rights”. But, Newdow, an atheist, won his case in June 26, 2002, when the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 2-1 that the Pledge with the words “under God” was unconstitutional. Later in 2004, the ruling was overturned on a technicality. In an article that appeared in First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, Vincent Phillip Munoz wrote about how the federal government wanted to strip the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction: “The House of Representatives voted to do just that in September 2004, when it passed the Pledge Protection Act. The legislation would prevent all federal courts from hearing cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Pledge”. Now Newdow is suing the federal government directly instead of suing Elk Grove Unified School as he did in his original case. He filed a new lawsuit on January 3, 2005. Newdow wrote on his website that he wanted the United States to change back to the previous “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America first approved by the Congress in 1942. It evokes feelings of patriotism and unity, and brings together the vastly different cultures, ethnicities, languages and backgrounds that form the common experience called America” (

Our founding fathers fought for the ideals of freedoms, which are in turn bestowed on us with the very words from the Constitution of the United States. We the People, not We the Christians, or We the Hindus, or even We the Atheists are the words I would celebrate, for that is the ideology that this country is built on: We the People: united, one People. My favorite movie is The American President not only because it is a love story but because of what the character President Andrew Shepherdd says near the end of the movie: America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. Those words are ever so true, even if they were in a fictional movie. The symbol of the United States cannot be just a flag or even a Pledge to a flag, but, instead, the symbol must be the people: The people, who are of different religions, cultures, races, and creeds, that make up this great nation. “We the People of the United States” are not just fancy words the Framers of the Constitution threw in to make the document look good, but instead they used those words to include everyone then and for the future. We have to remember that early in our history it was not just the English that came to the New World in search of wealth or a new way of life, but also there were the Spanish, French, and the Dutch that also came here looking for the same things as the English. Then, the black Africans were imported here to the United States as slaves to work in the fields of the South, and these Africans also brought with them their own religion. Now, we have almost every country in the world represented by immigrants that come to the United States every year. We must include everyone American in the Pledge, and the best way to do that is to remove “under God” from the Pledge. We must include all Americans of all religions in order for this country to remain united. I am an American, and in my Creator I trust.

I believe in what Michael Newdow is trying to do. I believe in a United States for ALL the people of ALL religons.