I was thinking about the national ruckus over the words “…under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance the other day, and I decided that I should form a political action committee (PAC) to address this issue. The purpose of the PAC is to suggest some alternate words to be inserted in the Pledge. I think it should read “…one nation, under booze, with liberty and justice for all.” The PAC is going to be called UB, short for “under booze” and our slogan will be “UB With Us.” I think we can get the support of a lot of people, and then we will make “under booze” our litmus test. If a candidate for public office doesn’t endorse our words, he doesn’t get our vote…or our money. Especially not our money. That will make them take notice of us!
Now, this is going to outrage a lot of people from the Religions Right, like the Christian Coalition, who believe that the US is a “Christian Nation.” I don’t know what they consider our many citizens of other religions…Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. There are over two thousand religions practiced by citizens of the United States. What about the citizens who do not practice any religion? Are they not citizens too? Most members of the Religious Right also think we should have prayer in public schools, at public events and in our government chambers. After all, they say, if most of the people want these things, then it’s okay, right?
No, it is not okay. The founders of the original colonies in North America, and the people who followed them…guys like Washington, Adams, Franklin and Jefferson…had the crazy notion that this new nation should welcome people of ALL religions, and that we should have a secular government, separated very carefully from all religious organizations. They resisted all efforts to add religious context to the Constitution. Jefferson coined a quaint phrase for this: Separation of Church and State. He even called it a “wall.”
So, even if the majority of the people in the country want prayer in public schools or “under god” in the Pledge, it’s not okay at all. The Constitution does not say anything about majority rule when it comes to religion. If it did, we should be having national campaigns and elections to select our national religion, and then everyone would have to practice it. A lot of those original settlers of the colonies came from places where religious orthodoxy was imposed, and that is exactly why they wanted things to be different here. They had lived under tyranny, and they did not want to live under it here…even the tyranny of the majority.
“Wait a minute,” they say. “The phrase ‘under God’ does not say anything about what god or what religion.” This is absolutely true and absolutely irrelevant. By adding those words, we are unequivocally stating that loyalty to our nation…our government…is tied to a religious belief, and that is exactly what those founders were trying to prevent. Freedom of religion means also freedom from religion.
The New Oxford Dictionary gives several meanings for the word “nation.” There are two meanings which seem to apply to this discussion:
1. A stable, historically developed community of people with a territory, economic life, distinctive culture and language in common.
2. The people of a territory united under a single government; a country; state.
Nowhere in either of these definitions is religion mentioned. We are united under a single government. We are not united under a single religion or under any group of religions or any religious belief, including belief in the existence of a god. The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath to our flag, a symbol representing our nation, which is united under a single government. It was never intended to be a public prayer. The addition of those two words by Congress in 1954, at the height of the anti-communist fervor whipped up by demagogues like Senator Joseph McCarthy, was in clear violation of the Constitution. The words should have been removed long ago.
A final thought: If it is deemed necessary to add something about religion in the Pledge then I suggest, in all seriousness, the following: “…one nation, where citizens may freely choose whether or not to practice any religion, with liberty, equality and justice for all.”
Okay, I admit I was kidding. I’m not going to form a PAC. Adding the words “under booze” to the Pledge would be totally inappropriate…but not unconstitutional. The words “under God” are equally inappropriate, and they also violate our Constitution.