The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance
A possible win-win compromise
Currently, the pledge is a a win-lose battle:
The Pledge of Allegiance debate has been structured by the legal
system, media, religious leaders and others as a win-lose battle:
- If Agnostics, Atheists,
other non-theists, strong supporters of the
principle of separation of church and state, etc. win, that the nation will
revert to the historical wording of the pledge:
"...one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
- If people with a strong faith in God,
and who want the Pledge to include a reference to God, win, then the nation will continue with the newer wording:
"...one nation, under God, indivisible, with
liberty and justice for all."
The folks who do not win, will lose.
Meanwhile, many millions of non-theists, Buddhists,
Wiccans, secularists, etc. will feel that they have been relegated to
second-class citizenship. The casual comment of George H.W. Bush, when he
was Presidential Nominee for the Republican party, will be reinforced by the
full authority of school boards and governments. In 1987, Bush said: "No, I don't know that Atheists should
be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."
The public will get the message
that the only proper religious belief for a citizen of America acknowledged by
the government is a belief in
the Judeo-Christian God. Religious tolerance will take a back seat. Valuing
of religious and cultural diversity will be adversely affected.
There may be a
better way to resolve these differences in a way in which everyone wins:
A win-win compromise:
One of the greatest contributions that the U.S. has made to humanity is the principle of
separation of church and state. This has produced
a relative peace among various faith groups.
Another contribution is continuing evidence that people of diverse beliefs can live and work together
in harmony. This is facilitated by the Ethic
of Reciprocity (a.k.a. Golden Rule) which is present in almost all
religions: that one should treat others as one would wish to be treated in
It is true that there was:
- Considerable religiously inspired violence which
victimized Roman Catholics in the 19th century,
violence -- and one lynching -- against Wiccans
in the late 20th century, and
- Other sporadic outbreaks of hatred.
the whole, the U.S. has enjoyed relative religious peace and a reasonable degree of
tolerance of diverse religious beliefs.
There may be a way in which separation of church and state, the valuing of
religious diversity, religious freedom, and increase social cohesiveness could be attained by a
creative solution to the Pledge of Allegiance debate. Almost everyone would win. The
Pledge of Allegiance could return to its original role of
increasing unity in America rather than driving people apart.
Imagine an arrangement in which everyone
felt free to substitute an alternative word for "God" as it
currently appears in the "under God" phrase:
- Agnostics, Atheists, Ethical Culturalists, Humanists, some Unitarian
Universalists, etc could say "under law," as in:
"...one nation, under law, indivisible, with
liberty and justice for all."
- Some Buddhists might be most comfortable saying "under Buddha"
or "under dharma."
- Bah'ai's, Christians, Sikhs, etc could say "under God."
- Followers of Hare Krishna could say "under Krishna."
- Goddess worshipers could say: "under Goddess." "Under the
Goddess" would be more accurate, but would not be a good fit.
- Hindus, other henotheists, and polytheists could say "under
- Jews could say "under Adoshem" or use some other name
or title associated with G-d.
- Muslims could say "under God" or "under Allah."
- Satanists could say "under Satan."
- Wiccans could say "under deity." This is not a particularly
satisfactory match, because Wiccans recognize the existence of both a Goddess
and a God. Some Wiccans might feel comfortable saying "under All" or "under
the One." These are names sometimes given to a single, unknowable deity
whose male and female aspects are visualized as the God and Goddess.
- Others not listed above could use the word "law" or substitute the name of
their own deity.
Almost everybody would feel comfortable reciting the pledge because they
could customize it to match their religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses would
probably still refrain from reciting the Pledge, as is their right; they object
to oaths and pledges to governmental bodies.
In fact, the only people who might seriously object to this new wording might
- Those who value the recent wording of the text because it has been
recited for over two generations. "Under God" was added in 1954.
- Those Baha'i's, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and other monotheists
who want to force persons of other faiths -- and none -- to acknowledge the
existence of their unique concept of God.
Actually, no permission from a school or government is needed to personally
customize the Pledge. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom
of speech. Numerous jurists and politicians have said that students do not
leave their human rights at the schoolhouse door. So if students want to substitute
their own preferred term for "God" they have every right to do so. Of course,
they might find that their guaranteed rights are not granted willingly. They
might have to initiate a lawsuit to enforce their freedom of speech. However, they would
appear to have the weight of the Constitution behind them.
- "George Bush: Citizen's quote," at:
How you got here:
Copyright © 2005 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-FEB-14, on Valentine's Day
Latest update: 2008-NOV-30
Author: B.A. Robinson