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The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

A possible win-win compromise

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Currently, the pledge is a a win-lose battle:

The Pledge of Allegiance debate has been structured by the legal system, media, religious leaders and others as a win-lose battle:

  • If Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Humanists, other non-theists, strong supporters of the principle of separation of church and state, etc. win, that the nation will revert to the historical wording of the pledge: " nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
  • If people with a strong faith in God, and who want the Pledge to include a reference to God, win, then the nation will continue with the newer wording: " nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The folks who do not win, will lose.

Meanwhile, many millions of non-theists, Buddhists, Hindus, Satanists, Wiccans, secularists, etc. will feel that they have been relegated to second-class citizenship. The casual comment of George H.W. Bush, when he was Presidential Nominee for the Republican party, will be reinforced by the full authority of school boards and governments. In 1987, Bush said:  "No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God." 1

The public will get the message that the only proper religious belief for a citizen of America acknowledged by the government is a belief in the Judeo-Christian God. Religious tolerance will take a back seat. Valuing of religious and cultural diversity will be adversely affected.

There may be a better way to resolve these differences in a way in which everyone wins:

A win-win compromise:

One of the greatest contributions that the U.S. has made to humanity is the principle of separation of church and state. This has produced a relative peace among various faith groups.

Another contribution is continuing evidence that people of diverse beliefs can live and work together in harmony. This is facilitated by the Ethic of Reciprocity (a.k.a. Golden Rule) which is present in almost all religions: that one should treat others as one would wish to be treated in return.

It is true that there was:

  • Considerable religiously inspired violence which victimized Roman Catholics in the 19th century,
  • Some violence -- and one lynching -- against Wiccans in the late 20th century, and
  • Other sporadic outbreaks of hatred.

But, on the whole, the U.S. has enjoyed relative religious peace and a reasonable degree of tolerance of diverse religious beliefs.

There may be a way in which separation of church and state, the valuing of religious diversity, religious freedom, and increase social cohesiveness could be attained by a creative solution to the Pledge of Allegiance debate. Almost everyone would win. The Pledge of Allegiance could return to its original role of increasing unity in America rather than driving people apart.

Imagine an arrangement in which everyone felt free to substitute an alternative word for "God" as it currently appears in the "under God" phrase:

  • Agnostics, Atheists, Ethical Culturalists, Humanists, some Unitarian Universalists, etc could say "under law," as in: " nation, under law, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
  • Some Buddhists might be most comfortable saying "under Buddha" or "under dharma."
  • Bah'ai's, Christians, Sikhs, etc could say "under God."
  • Followers of Hare Krishna could say "under Krishna."
  • Goddess worshipers could say: "under Goddess." "Under the Goddess" would be more accurate, but would not be a good fit.
  • Hindus, other henotheists, and polytheists could say "under Gods."
  • Jews could say "under Adoshem" or use some other name or title associated with G-d.
  • Muslims could say "under God" or "under Allah."
  • Satanists could say "under Satan."
  • Wiccans could say "under deity." This is not a particularly satisfactory match, because Wiccans recognize the existence of both a Goddess and a God. Some Wiccans might feel comfortable saying "under All" or "under the One." These are names sometimes given to a single, unknowable deity whose male and female aspects are visualized as the God and Goddess.
  • Others not listed above could use the word "law" or substitute the name of their own deity.

Almost everybody would feel comfortable reciting the pledge because they could customize it to match their religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses would probably still refrain from reciting the Pledge, as is their right; they object to oaths and pledges to governmental bodies.

In fact, the only people who might seriously object to this new wording might be:

  • Those who value the recent wording of the text because it has been recited for over two generations. "Under God" was added in 1954.
  • Those Baha'i's, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and other monotheists who want to force persons of other faiths -- and none -- to acknowledge the existence of their unique concept of God.

Actually, no permission from a school or government is needed to personally customize the Pledge. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Numerous jurists and politicians have said that students do not leave their human rights at the schoolhouse door. So if students want to substitute their own preferred term for "God" they have every right to do so. Of course, they might find that their guaranteed rights are not granted willingly. They might have to initiate a lawsuit to enforce their freedom of speech. However, they would appear to have the weight of the Constitution behind them.  

Reference used:

  1. "George Bush: Citizen's quote," at:

How you got here:

 Home page > Christianity > Prayer > School prayer > The Pledge > here

or: Home page > Law menu > The Pledge > here

Copyright © 2005 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-FEB-14, on Valentine's Day
Latest update: 2008-NOV-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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