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When You’re Privileged, the Irony Is Hard to Catch

November 9th, 2014

In Tracy, CA (about 50 miles east of San Francisco), a couple of kids are in danger of failing a high school speech class because, in a school assignment to recite the pledge to the school, they left out the words “under God.”

In one sense, the kids are out of line: they were told that they were required to read the pledge as presented, and if they felt uncomfortable with the assignment, they could get an alternate one. Instead, they chose to lead the recitation, and violated the rules given. While one of the students claimed he felt he would not be graded fairly with the alternative assignment, one kind of gets the feeling that they in fact wanted to make a statement.

And that is where they are not out of line; instead, the pledge, or more specifically, those who feel it must be forced upon the student populace, are out of line. I focused last month on the idea that the pledge itself is inane, but that was a more general assessment based on the fact that it requires young people to take an oath they do not understand. The inclusion of the words “under God” is another very solid reason the pledge is not a good idea.

Aside from the fact that the inclusion of “under God” is a late addition (the pledge was introduced in 1892, and the “under God” was tacked on in 1954), it is a clear violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state. Like making the national motto “In God We Trust” and slapping it on every piece of currency, it not only deviates from the original intention (the national motto was, even if not codified by law, “E Pluribus Unum” since the time of the founders), but it foists religion, indeed a specific religion (we all know which God is being referred to, after all), upon the people by government fiat, in stark contradiction to the establishment rule. In fact, the addition of “so help me God” to official pledges is expressly forbidden not by the Bill of Rights, but by the main body of the constitution itself, forbidding religious tests for public office. If you don’t think it’s a religious test, imagine what would have happened to Obama, or any other president, had they specifically omitted those two words from their inaugural oaths.

And yet, these illegal incursions are allowed to persist, usually under the spurious excuse that it’s not important, just a “little thing,” why are you even making a deal out of this at all? And then a Supreme Court justice attempts to overturn the First Amendment on the very basis that these incursions have become accepted in everyday government and social business.

And this is highlighted beautifully in the Tracy Unified School District’s public response to the two students’ actions:

“When you’re leading the pledge, you’re representing the school,” Strube said in an interview Monday . “I would say it’s not appropriate to leave it out when you are leading it for 2,000 people.”

This perfectly shows up the fallacy of the inclusion of religious text. How is it appropriate to direct a diverse group of students to make a religious statement on the direction of a government agency, but somehow inappropriate to not direct them to make a religious statement? If you are harming the religious students by leaving out the religious statement once or twice, how are you not harming the non-religious students every other time?

To say that it’s tradition or even law only makes it worse.

Seriously, it is time to retire this rather silly and, frankly, unconstitutional ritual.

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  1. Troy
    November 9th, 2014 at 23:02 | #1

    i think it was Digby who i first read contrasted the mild cerermonial deism the religionists insist everyone just grow up and put up with vs. the recent Hobby Lobby decision protecting corporate officers’ sensitive fee-fees from having their employees gaining access to birth control via government-mandated health care covered.

    A government is, at best, only as smart as the electorate. America’s revolutionary war period was something of a fluke; then again, the founders and framers were not necessarily democratically elected to their positions back then.

    Jefferson won in 1800 with 41,000 votes, 10% of the population.

  2. Troy
    November 12th, 2014 at 21:48 | #2

    In other news, I just noticed that the yen has breached 110!


    goodbye parity I guess. Wonder if it will go back to 150 where it belongs . . .

  3. Luis
    November 12th, 2014 at 22:58 | #3

    Yeah, not the best time for me to run yen to the U.S. Fortunately I have a stash there, I’ll be using that for U.S. shopping for a while…

  4. Troy
    November 17th, 2014 at 12:05 | #4

    I read in the NYT that Japan is in recession again!


    hard to fight the demographics . . .

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