“I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
During every assembly and school gathering we Highland students are asked and given the opportunity to recite this pledge to our country which I personally do not take part in. For that reason I find this article particularly interesting. The article states that an atheist group is suing a New Jersey school district because they believe that saying the words “under God” in the pledge is discriminatory against atheist kids (and any other child who doesn’t believe in God) and it also teaches these kids that a belief in God is tied to our individual patriotism. I also believed this for quite a long time—that because I did not agree with what the pledge states, I am not patriotic. I’ve come to learn (without the help of any school system or group) that that is completely untrue. I have an intense pride in this country, but because God is tied in with the pledge to our country, it was instilled in me that someone who does not believe in God could not be a patriot. So I agree that not only do the words of the pledge allow for discrimination against nonbelievers but it also teaches children something that isn’t true or accurate.
In the article the author also said that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge violates the New Jersey constitution by discriminating against atheists. Although no one is forced to recite the pledge, it creates a social norm and allows for ostracism and hostility towards atheists to be accepted. According to the humanist group that sued, the University of Minnesota has compiled a widely cited study that states that atheists are ranked as the most disliked and distrusted minority group in the nation, ranking below recent immigrants, Muslims, and gays. Now, this may not be entirely a result of having children recite a pledge every day that allows for discrimination but it is certainly a big part of it. Children are the future and what they learn at a young age generally sticks with them for their life long. At age 18 a child is highly unlikely to change and political or core beliefs for the rest of their lives, so it is absolutely paramount to instill honest and good values in children while they’re still impressionable. Teaching discrimination is not the answer but neither may be removing God from the pledge.
In the spirit of Earth Week I’ll propose a new pledge that I think (and hope) everyone can get behind: “I pledge allegiance to the Earth and all the life which it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.” I did not write this myself and I’m not entirely sure who the source is but I think it’s brilliant and inspiring and perfect for Earth Week.