I shudder to think about what the Weblog community is going to have to say about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling the Pledge of Alleigance as “unconstitutional”. It’s going to run along two roads, I bet:
1. Those who will be happy with the decision because of what they would probably term the “snide, in-your-face attitude of Christians in America today”.
2. Those who will be flamingly unhappy with the decision because of what they will undoubtedly say is “proof that this country is going straight to Hell”.
Hopefully, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not happy with the decision, because I think it’s a sop to overly-liberal forces and a denial of a pillar of American culture.
Yes, the Pledge was pushed by Eisenhower and a Congress in the 1950’s that was pretty, um, weird. Yes, “under God” undoubtedly, in most folks’ minds, refers to the Christian conception of God. But is that altogether inconsistent with the principles that this country is founded upon?
I don’t think two words in a rote recitation–“I pledge 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. “–violates the premise that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”, as defined in Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution.
There is little doubt in my mind that the influence of religious institutions–especially Christian ones, but also including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, and others–is a significant shaping factor of the American polity. The values espoused by men and women of faith have had a significant impact in constructing the underpinnings of our society, and, in my mind, to ignore that influence–or worse, pretend that it doesn’t exist–gives you an incomplete picture of What America Is All About [For Better Or Worse].
The most telling line from the CNN.com story I linked to above is the last: “The 9th Circuit is the most liberal and the most overturned appeals court in the country.” I personallly am not too aflutter about this, although five years ago I’d have been livid.
Now, the question of rote recitation of the Pledge in schools is another matter entirely. From my memories of it–we stopped doing it in fifth grade, from what I can remember–it served to make me ask questions of my parents and teachers about the values that underpinned American society. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A little rote recitation isn’t a bad thing, and after a while, it also makes some kids wonder why they’re saying it all the time–and when they look into it, they might just learn something.
I bet even the children of the guy who brought the suit can appreciate that.