Guest Post From Jon: Does “Under God” Belong in the Pledge of Allegiance?

People waiting for Fourth of July parade Pentwater, MI. Photo BF Newhall

Waiting for the Fourth of July parade to start in Pentwater, Michigan, one of the last places in the world where you can sit on the curb in your white shorts. Photo by BF Newhall.

Jon Newhall. Photo by BF NewhallJon wrote this post a couple of years ago when a Federal Appeals Court ruled in favor of keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t think Jon has changed his mind on this issue since. Meanwhile, he’s started his own — very political — blog on OpenSalon. It’s called The Galactic Report. If you like a good, stiff political debate, The Galactic Report is the place for you. — BFN

By Jon Newhall

We were sitting at breakfast on Friday morning when Barbara pointed out a story in that morning’s San Francisco Chronicle.  A three-judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court had ruled, 2-1, that including the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Constitution’s so-called “Establishment Clause.”

american flag flying in pentwater, MI. Photo by BF Newhall.

The “Establishment Clause” — as you know — is the first of the ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights.  It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

My God, I thought, this latest decision doesn’t make any sense.   After all, many if not most of our public schools encourage children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance aloud each morning.  And when that daily chant includes the words “under God,” aren’t we indoctrinating our children with a firm religious belief?  Like it or not, there are millions of Americans who don’t believe in God, or who have other very sincere concepts of religion that find this wording objectionable.

Can you imagine the outcry from certain folks on the far, far right if the wording were to say: “one nation under ‘the Gods,’  or “one nation under ‘Zeus,’ or “one nation under ‘Allah’ “?

The Chronicle story went on to report that Judge Carlos T. Bea justified the decision by explaining:  “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God–the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator.”

Judge Carlos T. Bea might be surprised to learn a fact about the Constitution.  The word “God” or “deity” or any similar term does not appear – even once – in the entire Constitution.  Why?  That was not by accident.  It was because the Founding Fathers were strong believers in the separation of church and state.

They knew from personal experience the dangers posed by allowing religion or the church to meddle in the affairs of the state.

The Scottville, Michigan, Clown Band parade in Pentwater, MI. Photo by BF Newhall.

The July 4 parade begins -- and the Scottville Clown Band plays for its Pentwater neighbors.

I need to make a slight confession here.  One of the reasons I find the inclusion of “under God” so tacky is that I’m a child of the 1940’s and 1950s’.  I clearly remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before the God phrase was added in 1954.  To this day, I find the rhythm of today’s Pledge a tad off key because of the imposition of that phrase.

I also remember that “under God” was added during the so-called McCarthy era, an period of national paranoia.  One of its primary purpose was to prove that God-fearing Americans were clearly superior to those godless communists on the other side of the world.

I’ve always felt that American is better than that, and that we don’t need to chant about our nation and God in order to prove our system is the best the world has to offer.   Because it really is.

(Note: The rambunctious Scottville Clown Band turns 100 this year.)



  1. Tony Newhall says:

    I agree with Jon. The words “under God” do not belong in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  2. Jon and I had another big discussion over breakfast on Saturday. I had a problem with the phrase in his post that lumped “Allah” together with “the Gods” and “Zeus.” In our culture, we don’t take “Zeus” and “the Gods” seriously. Zeus and the Greek pantheon of gods are an antiquated mythology that few, if any, people take take to heart any more. Allah, on the other hand, is the Arabic word for God that is used by Muslims. I take it seriously. I tried to talk Jon into rewriting the phrase to read “‘Krishna,’ ‘the Buddha’ or ‘Allah.'” But I couldn’t get him to budge. — Barbara

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