Pledge language is important but also a bit overdramatic

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004

Thursday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to save the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is, as some have complained, an election-year wedge issue. But that doesn't mean the issue isn't worthy of discussion and a decision.

Fact is, when it comes to "under God," most people have come to accept the pledge's use of the words, which have been a part of the pledge for 50 years. It's highly doubtful that those two words inspire any nonbelievers to run out to church. They may, really, just be a quiet reminder to those who already have faith.

Mostly, though, "under God" is viewed largely as a speck in the national background: sometimes noticed but seldom regarded.

And that's why God should be spared.

Rep. Don Young was one of 247 House members, primarily Republicans, who voted Thursday to do just that by supporting the Pledge Protection Act, which would prevent any federal court from deciding anything regarding the pledge's constitutionality. The measure stemmed from a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed a Sacramento school district's appeal of a lower court ruling that found the "under God" phrase unconstitutional.

That ruling, however, was made on what was interpreted as a technicality, leaving pledge supporters fearing that the high court could be swayed someday to dump "God." Hence the measure approved by the House.

Yes, "under God" is a wedge issue, the type of emotional, no-middle-ground topic that seeks to incite group unity against another voting group. But it's a lightweight wedge, one that gets a level of attention more appropriate of a top-wedge issue such as gay marriage or school prayer.

Why are the pledge's theologic words lightweight by comparison? Because references to God exist to this day, beyond the Pledge of Allegiance, in government and have done so for decades, even centuries. Pull some coins from your pocket or bills from your purse and you'll see the words "In God We Trust." The Declaration of Independence notes that people are "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ..." The Supreme Court opens its sessions with the call: "God save this honorable court."

So it is worthwhile, albeit time consuming, that the pledge be preserved in its present form. Now, if as much fervor and chest-thumping could be spent on more-pressing matters confronting the nation.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Sept. 2

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