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July 2, 2002

The Pledge, The Constitution, and Religion

Mike Kuster

When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, many of us in the country went into shock. For most, it was the shock of something so wholesome being deemed illegal. For me, it was the cohunes of these judges to make such a decision.

Since the ruling, the whole country has been debating - or really just trashing - the judges and their decision. People are just damned mad! Why should we change something that's been working for half a century?

Before we go further, we should explore the issues.

First, let's examine the Pledge of Allegiance. Here is The Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

That's how it was written, and recited in schools across this country before the Red Scare. During the Red Scare, the United States Congress added two words to read:

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.

Why? Because our country faced a strong enemy whose people were not allowed to practice any religious beliefs. Besides, they're the U.S. Congress and meddling with a good thing is what they do best.

Now, let's look at the Constitution. Here's what it says in the Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This one amendment to the Constitution sure does cause a lot of controversy. It couldn't be written any plainer. "Congress (that body that likes to screw with good things) shall make no (as in don't do it) law respecting an establishment of religion (that God thing)."

In the same breath, it also covers another issue a certain part of the population does not get. Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. This covers school prayer. In this one statement, our Founding Fathers stated that schools cannot lead children in prayer, but they cannot stop children from praying. That is where it stands today, real legal like. So next time some idiot tells you kids can't pray in schools, tell them they're wrong!

Now, let's discuss religion. Religion has always been a strong part of the American Culture (see One Nation, which by the way does not mean the United States of America, but the culture that binds all of us as Americans). It's important to social and individual well-being.

Religious freedom was even more important. Religion loses its power when it is not freely chosen and practiced. Many people came - and still do - to this land for religious freedom. They were not allowed to practice their religion or were forced to practice some other religion. Catholics from England founded Maryland. They were escaping religious oppression and prosecution. We know how well Anglicans and Catholics get along over in the British Isles even today.

Shortly after Maryland's founding, the colonial legislature voted to secure religious freedom. They changed Maryland's laws to allow any man, regardless of religious belief, to vote. It came about when a Jewish landowner was denied the right to vote. Maryland became the first government to establish such wide-reaching religious freedom.

So, today we are faced with this ruling that appears to slap our foundation of religious beliefs in the face. Or does it?

Clearly, the Founding Fathers did not want Congress putting those two words in our Pledge of Allegiance. It establishes religion. Yes, God is a vague term that crosses many religious boundaries, but not all. Take, for instance, religions that worship many gods. They are apparently not welcome to enjoy our liberties. What about atheists, the one's who caused this whole mess? They don't believe in any diety.

This is why the original pledge works best. Be honest fellow Christians, don 't you want to end the Pledge of Allegiance with Amen. The anti-communist Congress turned the Pledge of Allegiance into a quasi-prayer.

Besides, do our houses of religion need an endorsement by the state? No!

If all references to God were removed from our money and our pledges, religion would not be weakened. As stated above, religious freedom creates true religious belief. When people freely chose to practice and believe without government impositions, religions benefit the most. The people are more engaged and eager to participate, because they believe rather than they have to. Our country does not force people to practice or believe, but phrases like "one nation under God" influence and nudge. That is not religious freedom.

The judges were absolutely correct in their ruling. They are crazy for taking such a stand, but they proved their worthiness as judges. We cannot have magistrates who sway with the wind. They must interpret the Constitution and our laws as they are written.

As stated many times before in this column, we must hold true to the Constitution if we expect to continue as the oldest republic in the world's history.

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