Battling 'God' in the Public Square

The debate over the Pledge of Allegiance has intensified over the past decade, with atheists and their leftist enthusiasts insisting that the proclamation be banned from the public square. While these individuals claim that they have no problem with the Pledge’s general patriotic tenants, the words “under God” are the objects of their intense scrutiny.

Those in opposition to public mentions of “God” are so offended that they’ve taken to the courts or worked through local mandates to ensure that any mention of a deity is abolished, regardless of majority opinion. In its totality, this movement signifies an abhorrent misinterpretation of the Constitution and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, it constitutes an infringement on the rights of the vast majority of Americans.

When examining the debate surrounding references to “God” in the public square, it is important to discuss and draw parallels to the central tenants of any democratic society. The most basic intrinsic value of any democracy is the notion that rule is to be decided by the people. This is to say that decisions, votes and the sociopolitical process are to be influenced, if not decided, by the majority. 

This fact is often overlooked by atheists on a mission to deconstruct society’s faith in a higher power. All the while, these individuals and their supporting institutions fail to ask an important question: What is the will of the majority when it comes to publicly placed references to God?

To understand this comprehensively, let’s explore where the nation stands on the broader issue of religion. A 2007 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that a whopping 78.4% of Americans call themselves Christians (this doesn’t count those individuals who subscribe to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), with a mere 16.1% calling themselves “unaffiliated.” Of these “unaffiliated” individuals only 1.6% call themselves atheists, with 2.4% classifying themselves as agnostics. 

While these proportions do not necessarily provide a direct correlation to stances on the Pledge of Allegiance or other public mentions of “God,” (such as “In God We Trust”—another atheistic target) one can suspect with reasonable corroboration that a vast majority (78.4%) of Americans are not offended by the words “God,” “Jesus” and the like. With such a vast proportion of society claiming to believe in Christian doctrine, the left’s movement against faith and religion is superfluous. 

In what is easily seen as a re-branding of the framers’ original intent, leftists have called for militant segregation that does little more than appease their own appetites.  The words “separation of church and state” are used and misused on a daily basis—so much so that many Americans actually believe they were written by the founding fathers. 

A quick review of the Constitution shows that this leftist mantra was invented by anti-religionists who have sought to reconstruct the founders’ words. The actual text of the establishment clause reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Clearly, our forefathers did not want a theocracy, but nowhere do the words “separation of church and state” appear. They are a figment of atheistic imagination. “Do not establish a theocracy” and “never mention the words of God under any circumstance” are two very different ideals.

Atheists’ continued frustration with a majority culture that embraces faith has metastasized into a slew of courtroom dramas aimed at specified targets. One could argue that the debate over the Pledge of Allegiance, one of the central pincushions in their unholy war against religion, dates back to 1954 when the oath was amended to include the words “under God.” 

The contemporary debate can be traced back to 2002, when Michael Newdow commenced his obsessive atheistic quest to remove the pledge from the public school system. Newdow, an emergency room doctor and amateur constitutional lawyer of sorts, claimed his daughter’s rights were violated when she was taught the pledge in her public California elementary school. 

Newdow inevitably lost the court battles he’s waged. While the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially ruled in his favor, an appeal to the Supreme Court struck down Newdow’s claims. In the conclusion of the court’s opinion, the following was written:

“The Constitution only requires that schoolchildren be entitled to abstain from the ceremony if they chose to do so. To give the parent of such a child a sort of “heckler’s veto” over a patriotic ceremony willingly participated in by other students, simply because the Pledge of Allegiance contains the descriptive phrase “under God,” is an unwarranted extension of the Establishment Clause, an extension which would have the unfortunate effect of prohibiting a commendable patriotic observance.”

While Newdow and his cohorts continue to encounter setbacks to their radical and perplexing agenda, their endurance is a powerful force. On a local level, communities across the nation have found themselves fighting similar battles over the pledge, among other “religious” targets.  As America is faced with record deficits and increasing public debt, atheists continue to waste taxpayer dollars on fringe cases that are, coincidentally, aimed at diminishing the rights of the majority. In addition to these ongoing court battles, some communities are facing more localized mandates.

Take high school senior Sean Harrington, a young man who fought diligently for three years in order to gain permission to have the Pledge of Allegiance recited in his school. The Boston Globe reported on Harrington’s battle against his school district’s policy in which the pledge hadn’t been recited in decades. Harrington’s hard work recently paid off in the form of a new policy change that will require the district to give students the opportunity (and option) to recite the pledge. Imagine—a student in the United States of America practically begging for the opportunity to showcase his patriotism. It’s practically unfathomable, but because of the insistence of a minority of non-believers, such battles are a reality in cities across the nation.

While the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem like an issue worthy of a legal scuffle, atheistic rants and legal actions against this patriotic and optional proclamation run counter to our democratic process, while eroding the values our nation has held dear for more than two centuries. 

The left’s assault against the pledge is yet another symptom of an overarching disease. Hosting an optional pledge in schools does little to infringe upon the rights of atheists. If these individuals wish to have their children refrain from reciting the pledge that is their prerogative. 

However, removing a coveted oath to accommodate the minority literally strips the plurality of its rights. It is my hope that other patriotic Americans, like Harrington, will hold strong to their convictions, while upholding the framers’ original intent. After all, the future of worship and observance depends on it.