Do the words of the pledge still hold meaning today?

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 06, 2002

It is amazing, given The Sun's presumption of children's indifference to the Pledge of Allegiance, how parents nonetheless care so much about it that an atheist parent sues to have "under God" taken out, the courts decide the case has merit, and our political leaders rise almost with one voice to defend these same words ("Part of the woodwork," editorial, June 28).

Perhaps only The Sun's editors believe no one cares about the pledge because "the words don't mean as much" as they once did or that the ritual matters but the meaning of the words does not.

And, of course, it is bad, in The Sun's view, for the courts to provide "fodder for right-wingers" by taking the case.

"Right-wingers," of course, must be the only ones who care about "under God." The rest of us believers, evidently, would never think of speaking up for Him.

Perhaps to The Sun's editorial writers, the words of the Pledge of Allegiance "hardly carry any specific weight anymore."

But to the rest of us Americans - black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Native American and immigrants - these words speak of the Founding Fathers, the Civil War and the civil rights movement; of the sacrifices of our men and women on battlefields all over the world; and of the nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" that we love and cherish.

Patricia Keimig

Baltimore

Expecting to find The Sun ardently supporting the First Amendment, I was surprised to find that that the editorial "Part of the woodwork" seemed to be a meek attempt to go along with the rest of the country in denouncing the recent U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision on the Pledge of Allegiance.

Although the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christian, the United States government, under the current Constitution, was established as a secular one. The establishment clause of the First Amendment makes it very clear that the U.S. government is not in the business of telling its citizens what to believe.

The government must be neutral on religion, neither hindering it nor promoting it. But Congress violated this principle in 1954 when it inserted "under God" into the originally secular Pledge of Allegiance.

The phrase "one nation under God" is clearly a religious reference as well as a government statement that a god of some type exists. This hardly sounds like a neutral stance.

Despite the public outcry, the decision of the Court of Appeals was correct. It upheld the principle of separation and, thus, government neutrality with regard to religion.

I wish The Sun would have emphasized this point instead of going along with the crowd.

John Soos

Baltimore

The editorial "Part of the woodwork" was pretty scary.

Listen to The Sun's language: "The words are fine now because the words don't mean as much" and "It's the ritual and not the meaning that actually counts."

Great. Our children should stand, and in a dull, bored, harmonious group, recite a meaningless pledge daily. That sounds like a country that wants citizens to follow in lockstep, without thinking.

Please, encourage our children to think about every word they say and mean every word they say, not mindlessly recite a pledge.

Let's preserve our history and take these modern words out of the pledge.

Indeed, our freedom to make choices about religion is what we say we are fighting to preserve as we blow up other nations.

Or is it like the pledge: The words aren't important, just the bombing ritual.

Lois Kelberman

Severna Park

I am staggered by the massive public and political outcry regarding the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling. You'd think the panel ruled that it was legal to murder kittens and roast them on spits.

And in disagreeing with the ruling, The Sun's editorial "Part of the woodwork" understated the issue when it claimed the pledge "doesn't carry the punch it used to."

As an eighth-grade civics teacher in Fairfax, Va., I opened a unit on propaganda by asking students to write the words to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Forget how ridiculous the students' spelling was - the vast majority got entire words and phrases laughably wrong, showing they had very little idea what they were reciting for the past eight years every morning. They either never knew or completely lost sight of the fact that they were promising to be loyal to their country and flag.

And if the pledge has indeed been reduced to "a common little ritual before the bell rings," what is the harm in eliminating "under God," considering the discomfort it causes students (and teachers) whose religious beliefs don't support those words?

President Bush proclaimed it to be a "fact" that "we received our rights from God" in skewering this ruling ("Judge stays his ruling on pledge indefinitely," June 28).

But as far as millions of Americans are concerned (not the majority, I admit) this is not a fact, and is certainly up for debate. Many of us believe our rights derive from our humanity, not an intangible deity, whatever it may be called. Others do not believe in the Judeo-Christian version of God.

Finally, I fear for the judge who dares interpret the law as he sees fit if it inspires this kind of reaction from not only citizens, but also political leaders.

For the House of Representatives and Senate to vote nearly unanimously to express outrage, shouting the words "under God" when reciting the pledge, is another way for Congress to say: "We dare you to rule your conscience and interpret the law. This is the wrath you will bring upon yourself."

Do we really want to intimidate judges into ruling according to one religious perspective, even if it is the majority's?

Aliza Worthington

Elkridge

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