Every Monday through Friday from September until June for six years, I started my morning by placing my hand over my heart and reciting the words I had worked so hard to memorize:
“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.
In doing so, I confirmed to the world that my seven year old self was not a communist or, after September 11th, a terrorist. We could now continue on with the day to learn about cursive and fractions within the comfort of a room full of patriotic and faithful children who had no idea what they were really saying.
The pledge was originally created in 1892 with the intention that it could be used for citizens in any nation to declare their allegiance to their country. In 1923, the United States claimed it as its own and personalized it in order to do so. In 1954 during the heat of the Cold War, under President Eisenhower’s encouragement, congress added the words “under God” to the pledge. This remains the pledge that our kindergarteners recite today.
Two years after this alteration of the pledge of allegiance, congress affirmed “In God We Trust” as our official national motto. We were Christian capitalists and for Christ’s sake (literally?), we would make sure every last atheist communist knew that by instilling it in our school children and advertising it on our dollar bills.
But…what about the freedom of religion our founding fathers established in the first amendment? What about the separation of church and state that Jefferson established?
This national motto has been brought to questioning by critics on multiple occasions and continues to be reaffirmed by congress. In 1970 when the motto was questioned, the court ruled that the motto had nothing to do with the establishment of a religion or of a state church. The motto is respected and related to by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Each of these religious texts contains verses that convey a similar message.
So, did our founding fathers grant us freedom of religion, or freedom from religion?
Something as secular as money should not be laden with a motto that groups the entire nation under a shared trust of a higher power. Why does the government have the power to advertise whom I place my trust in? Heck, for all they know, it could be Mickey Mouse. Unfortunately, just because this national motto should be abolished from our money and congress doesn’t mean it will be.
During the Civil War, people used Christianity and the Bible to both advocate and oppose slavery. The same thing occurs today in the discussion of many political subjects, including abortion and gay rights. The majority of arguments that oppose these two institutions are grounded in religious beliefs. In this way, God’s involvement in the government is taking away people’s constitutional rights. When people claim “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and fight to keep gay marriage illegal they are essentially taking away someone’s freedom of choice because of religious motives.
I stand firmly behind the idea that no one has the right to impose his or her beliefs on another person. Giving God a place in our government by continually reaffirming our national motto and making school children memorize the pledge is imposing the ideas expressed in the Bible on the people of the nation. They do not belong there.
We’ve come a long way since McCarthyism and the Red Scare of the 1950’s, but as long as religion continues to play a role in political arguments and our motto continues to pledge the entire nation to a higher power, we still have a long way to go. I hope I can see us go there.
About the Author (Author Profile)Mackenzie is a cake connoisseur. She hails from a small snow globe of a town deep in the mountains of Colorado and is ridiculously proud of the fact that she's half Australian. She's working towards molding young minds as she studies History Education and American Studies with a minor in Political Science, but she would also like to be a princess (or maybe a lawyer). Her weaknesses and greatest enemies include mornings, ketchup, and mascots. Mostly Mackenzie likes to eat soup, look at the moon, and work towards being Hermione Granger.
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