People who find pledge offensive don't have to say it pledge

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2002

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands -- one nation indivisible -- with liberty and justice for all."

That's the original Pledge of Allegiance, which ran on Sept. 8, 1892, in the Boston-based magazine, The Youth's Companion. It was written for students to repeat on Columbus Day that year, the quadricentennial of Columbus' arrival.

Another change was made at the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C., on June 14, 1923. "My flag" became "the flag of the United States of America."

In June of 1954, the phrase "under God" was added.

Like it or not, "God" is part of our country's heritage.

The Declaration of Independence makes reference to God in four places, including the second paragraph: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ... ."

The Declaration of Independence also closes with reference to God: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

"In God We Trust" is printed on our currency.

Each session of Congress begins with prayer.

Some of our most patriotic songs make reference to God.

Our nation's capital is filled with references to faith in God.

Nevertheless, those wringing their hands over this week's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that declared reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional can take heart, or not, in this question: In what other country in the world would such a thing happen?

We can't think of one. On the one hand, the ruling seems ludicrous, even shocking; on the other hand, it also shows the diversity of opinion that makes the United States of America the strongest nation in the world. That a federal appeals court could rule the pledge unconstitutional exemplifies the power of the checks and balances in place in government.

Having said that, however, like most of the rest of the country, we happen to think the 9th Circuit decision is fatally flawed and should be overturned.

In fact, the ruling has been put on hold indefinitely, and the government will seek a rehearing. That means Wednesday's decision has no effect for the time being. The consensus among almost everyone, including legal scholars, politicians and the American public is that the ruling should and will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, it gives Americans time to reflect on the principles on which the United States was founded.

Certainly, no one endorses government-sponsored religion. Does that mean Americans should ignore the faith-based part of our heritage and eliminate all references to "God" in public settings. We think not. Yet, Wednesday's appeals court ruling seems to ask us to do that.

Should those who find the words "under God" offensive be able to take that part of our nation's heritage from those who don't?

Quite simply, no.

While the rights of those holding minority views should be protected, the rights of the majority deserve equal protection. In this particular case, those who find the words "under God" offensive in the pledge need not participate in its recitation. The U.S. Supreme Court previously has ruled students cannot be forced to say the pledge.

The Pledge of Allegiance need not be altered to fit the beliefs of those who find any reference to God objectionable; those people need not say the pledge.

And those who believe that "divine Providence" has blessed this country in more ways than one can continue recognizing the role of the Creator every time they give voice to the pledge.

Central Kenai Peninsula residents and visitors have an opportunity to express their patriotism Sunday night, during the 11th annual God and Country Rally. The rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Cook Inlet Academy on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

The rally will feature the Bel Canto Community Kids Choir performing "Salute to America" and speaker Lane Stockeland of the Sixth Recruiting Brigade in Las Vegas.

The purpose of the rally is to honor those who have and are serving the United States and to recognize God's blessings on the country. There is no charge.

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