Be a Patriot, Strike a Blow for Secularism and Protect the First Amendment: Resist the Theocratic, McCarthy Era Pledge of Allegiance

Imagine how put off you would be if, at the start of every workday, all employees at your worksite were expected to stand, face the flag and recite the Lord’s Prayer - or passages from the Bhagavad-Gita or the Holy Quran. Unless you were a devotee of the favored religion, you’d probably find the exercise rude at best or, much worse, a violation of your rights.


I suggest it’s time for the twenty percent of the “nones” in this country and all other citizens, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims who do not believe that the Republic is “under God” (or, if they do believe that, do not believe that the inclusion of this religious phrase in a once secular pledge of loyalty is appropriate or constitutional), to show overt opposition to the Pledge of Allegiance wherever and whenever it is recited.

I recommend a simple, respectful but clear physical technique for displaying opposition to this McCarthy-era imposition of Christianity into secular national affairs: stand, like everyone else but with folded arms, silently while slowly moving your head slightly from side to side in an unmistakable expression of “NO!”

In doing so, you and other co-conspirators for safeguarding separation of church and state will effectively be acting as patriots for your country, striking a blow for liberty while protecting your rights under the First Amendment. Patriotism need not be defined or associated with God-belief. To do so, as occurs with the recitation of the revised Pledge, marginalizes freethinkers. We have a right to communicate dissent from this imposition on our own, non-Christian convictions.

If the folded arm version of dissent from the Pledge catches on, it won’t be long before the odious “under God” Pledge is seen as the divisive intrusion into secular civility that it is. As expressions of silent dissent expand throughout the nation, the Knights of Columbus and communist scare era origins of the religious modification to the historic Pledge will be better understood by the American public. The “under God” addition will be widely discussed and debated.

Many, if not most, service clubs, schools and other institutions that have for too long gone along with the revised Pledge absent organized resistance will drop it entirely. The commotion and needless discord it generates will be seen as more trouble than adherence to this ritual is worth.

Not incidentally, the national debate and the disharmony associated with the “under God” intrusion will also be factored into future deliberations at state, federal and the Supreme Court levels when the next round of challenges reach these courts.

Speaking of which, there is a promising court challenge to the Christian version of the Pledge. The argument this time is new and quite possibly more legally promising than previous failed challenges. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has already agreed to hear the new arguments. (See Austin Cline, “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Review 'Under God,' “ - Guide, October 31, 2012.)

In the case described, parents of public school children required to start each day with the Pledge assert that the phrase 'under God' “transforms a patriotic exercise into a religious exercise which encourages prejudice and bigotry to nonbelievers like themselves.”

Of course that’s exactly what it does wherever participation is expected as part of a public ritual. "This," the Massachusetts plaintiffs hold, "violates that state's constitutional protection of the equal rights of all citizens." The plaintiffs case “pits the legal equality of nonbelievers against the desire of Christians to have their beliefs endorsed, promoted and supported by the government.” Just so.

The head of the American Humanist Association is quoted to the effect that such a discriminatory practice stigmatizes non-believers and those of other faith traditions and therefor clearly violates the equal rights safeguards for all.

Let’s not wait for the courts to act. Let’s start a folded arms campaign against the Pledge immediately. Next time you are at a town hall, civic association, school or other gathering where the Pledge is about to be recited, think of all the patriots that have done so much over more than two centuries to protect the rights we enjoy today. In their honor and for the good of your country, stand and display an alternative to the “under God” pledge. Give everyone a look at the truly patriotic Pledge, a folded arms, NO head movement side to side that sends a clear message that America is actually under a constitution of, by and for the people.

As Frank Zappa put it, “Anybody who wants religion is welcome to it, as far as I'm concerned -- I support your right to enjoy it. However, I would appreciate it if you exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture or necrodestination.” (Cited by FFRF as attributed to Warren Allen Smith in “Who's Who in Hell.”)