Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Naton ... Indivisable

Wow this scares and saddens me.  There are no atheist patriots?!
What about Buddhist? Hindu? Zoroastrian? Sikh? Native American Religions?
I can't write much because it is already late and I promised I'd get to bed by now, but I just wanted to mention something I experienced in the last day or so.  I got into a "discussion" on Facebook with a friend and her friends over the "under God" part of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Apparently a student somewhere refused to stand for the Pledge as a protest over that and my friend went off on how disrespectful she felt that was and how angry she was about it.  I'll put my responses below, just FYI.  A friend of my friend chimed in that the student and her parents who raised her so badly could/should be shipped off to some other country.

I was just very struck at how differently these people felt and thought from myself.  I guess I spend a lot of my time sort of assuming that I'm in the midst of people who are more tolerant than this.  Our discussion was respectful of each other, but not of the subject, her parents, or actions.  I think part of my quandary is that I am so reluctant to feel certain that I am correct about something.  I always feel like there's some part that I don't understand and try to reserve judgement, which tends to preclude anger.  I don't mean I do this as an intentional gesture of leniency or whatever, I just feel so incompetent about so much that I don't consider myself to be in a position to say anything.  I am learning this is not how everyone feels.  Some are very confident they are correct.

(2014 note: I see here that I used the word Federal in discussing public schools, which are of course state institutions. Oops. Read Federal as Government)

So, initial rant from friend...and a warning that as usual, I'm a bit verbose.  Grab a snack & beverage.
  •  Although, the flag stands for a country where that girl has the right to do that and her parents have the right to teach them to do it. Ironic...

  • Julia K Burzon Actually, I strongly object to social pressure to acquiesce to the "under God" part too. Not sure I have the guts to stand up for it. They may be putting their respect for military sacrifice 2nd to the right to be free of religious coercion in tax-funded institutions, something the sacrifices were made for....
    Reiteration from friend and more vehement agreement from her friend that they are offended and that the action shows disrespect to the flag and those who fought and died for our country.  Assertion that she should stand and just not say the offending words if necessary, but that she must stand or she is disrespecting the flag/country/military/sacrifices of military families, etc.  Invitation for the student & family to relocate.
  • Julia K Burzon Sure, she doesn't have to say it, but she shouldn't, especially as a child, be put in a position of having to appear to be disrespectful in order to boldly object to the inclusion of religious language in a seemingly mandatory group exercise in a Federal institution (vs. not being noticed not saying those two words) either. Burning a Bible, Koran, Torah, Sutra, or whatever seems a lot more extreme than choosing not to stand. I don't think she would be allowed to do that as any kind of protest in a Federal area. (?) What if doing THAT [burning a holy text] were added to the pledge because it was politically advantageous? I'm sure we'd see some vehement sitting then, regardless of the implied disrespect to the military! ha ha or What if the wording were "NOT under any gods" instead? I bet that would achieve the same result and there wouldn't be much arguing about how disrespectful it seems to the military. It seems easier to ask a minority to stand mute while the majority observes its religion as part of such a group exercise.

    Hmmm....I think the problem is the ambiguity of the action of not standing. It can be interpreted as disrespect for the believers of the religion or the military in the case of the pledge, even if the intention is not disrespect, but simply to draw attention to the need for separation of church and state. Wasn't the "under God" part was only added in the 50s (40s?) to further differentiate us from the communists anyway? Why can't it be let go? Why won't it be let go? It shouldn't be there at all. I think it's unconscionable to place a child in the position of having to appear for all practical purposes to endorse a religious statement in a Federal institution. I think some other means of patriotic veneration could easily be substituted for the pledge until the issue is resolved, not that anyone would do that.

    Julia K Burzon Ooooh! Competing soapboxes! :) Sorry. Didn't mean to rant at your rant. I just don't like my kids being in this position either, as I'm not raising them with a religion.
    A different friend added her two cents in a very diplomatic way.
  •  Julia K Burzon So refreshing to have an intelligent, respectful conversation on a touchy topic!
    Concessions that the student does indeed have the right to stand or sit, but given with the caveat that they retain their right to be be offended, which I do not dispute.  But further, insistence that the student IS being disrespectful, i.e. that their interpretation of the student's action is correct and that any other is not really acceptable, or rather that then I guess I am worthy of judgement too.  Maybe that wasn't intended, but that's how I felt.  I felt that by defending the action as acceptable protest that I was rendering myself as worthy of contempt as the protestor and her irresponsible parents.

    Julia K Burzon Please know that I'm not trying to antagonize anyone. I'd written too much twice and deleted the posts. ;) But anyway, my main points were: The principles the US was founded on go back to the Code of Hammurabi and are not only Judeo-Christian. Some of our most prominent forefathers were adamant about not having religion as part of the US government, including Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton. I think there's evidence that Washington wasn't even a practicing Christian, not that it matters. I keep being told how the US was founded as a Christian nation and it really grates on me because it isn't true.

    I am confused about your interpretation of separation of church and state as not meaning you can't combine the two. Isn't keeping gods out of the government and its institutions is EXACTLY the point? I am curious as to whether you would feel as offended by anyone refusing to stand for if the pledge were worded "one nation under The Prophet Muhhamed, peace be upon him,"? or under Zeus? or Vishnu? This kid isn't paying to go to a religious school of a different subgroup than his/her own. People of all and no religions are paying for the public schools to teach the nation's children reading, math, science, history (i.e. secular subjects). I have no objection to discussion and explanation of religion as part of any of those classes.

    I think you'll find this article in Wikipedia interesting. According to it, students can not be made to stand for the pledge according to the Supreme Court. If this is so, his objection to the wording of the pledge via sitting is his right under the the First Amendment of the constitution the flag represents and for which our relatives and forefathers fought (It's not like I have no connection here, I have relatives going back to the revolution and who fought in at least the War of 1812 [we have his sword---SO COOL!], Civil War, and Korea and maybe more). I disagree that exercising this right shows disrespect, but assert it is merely nonparticipation. Offense is premature. We cannot know he is not venerating the flag and the military that protects our nation in his heart and simply not standing as an objection to under-God thing. Yes, I get that THIS is what offends you. He should stand anyway (and stifle his objection to the unconstitutionality of his situation?). Obviously you have every right to your opinions and feelings. But I question whose place is it to judge this person's quality of anyone's patriotism or to enforce that the only acceptable way to show it is to be part of a public demonstration. I kind of think this kind of issue applies to how Jesus said to pray in private (Matthew 6:6).


    In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that public school students are not required to say the Pledge, concluding that "compulsory unification of opinion" violates the First Amendment.[17] <b> In a later opinion, the Court held that students are also not required to stand for the Pledge. </b> [18]

    Requiring or promoting of the Pledge on the part of the government has drawn criticism and legal challenges on several grounds... One objection[19] states that a democratic republic built on freedom of dissent should not require its citizens to pledge allegiance to it, and that <b> the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects one's right to refrain from speaking or standing (also a form of speech).[18] Another objection lies in the fact that the people who are most likely to recite the Pledge every day, small children in schools, cannot really give their consent or even completely understand the Pledge they are taking. </b>[20]

    The introduction of "under God" in the 1950s was done during the Cold War, as a way to differentiate the U.S. from the concept of communist state atheism.[24]

    The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an expression of loyalty to the...See More

    Julia K Burzon @Unnamed Aggressive Friend, I think you're missing the student's/parents point. I'm sure if the pledge were in its original form the kid would stand right up and so would the parents. If the pledge venerated some other god, would you feel standing and reciting all of it but "under Vishnu" or whatever was an acceptable amount of protest when your child had to hear everyone else say it as a group every day? Who are we to judge her patriotism? We don't know what she's thinking. You're really saying that if she doesn't show it in the way you think she should that she should be shipped out?

  • Julia K Burzon You'll like this. http://sausedo.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/comic.jpg

    My friend reiterated that she was entitled to her opinion and that she felt it was disrespectful not to stand, that we would have to agree to disagree and that hers was to be "THE last post" in the thread.  She did acknowledge the girl had the right to sit or not and say the words or not, but again, she felt to sit was to disrespect veterans (at the very least).  Her friend agreed.  I let it go.


  1. It really frustrates and baffles me, too, because I think that it's CLEAR AS A DAY that the inclusion of the words in question is anti-constitutional, and yet, I've yet to see a Christian acknowledge it. Which, to me, is very telling, and I think it very much stems from the problem that some people cannot entertain the idea that they *may* be if not wrong, at least missing the entire picture.
    What are you planning on doing about the pledge with your kids? Ej is very militant about it and wanted to tell Sasha to stay seated (and very much like you said, it would NOT be out of disrespect). I think it's unfair to put a 6-year-old in that adversarial a situation, especially since she can't possibly know yet what it's all about, so it's like sending her to fight out battles. But again, I totally agree with you when you say that no student in a public school should ever be put in this kind of predicament to begin with. If you're going to make it a mandatory part of school life, you cannot include religion in it. Honoring the military and showing respect for the flag has nothing to do with religion (what about the atheists who died protecting this country, surely there were some, aren't we disrespecting them, too, by lumping together religion and service to this country?). Religious devotion has plenty of forums in this country to choose from.

  2. I don't like to see kids used as pawns in a fight they can't possibly fully grasp. At the moment, my daughter believes in God as I attended a Christian Mom's group and she was indoctrinated. We maintain that she can believe whatever she wants, that we are going to expose the kids to as much as possible and let them make up their own minds. (Although my husband is not happy about the indoctrination, it was free childcare for 2 hours and I wasn't in the mental state to live without it and the social support that came with it.) So she it wasn't an issue for her this year.

    I generally don't say the "under God" part and hadn't really given it a lot of thought until this exchange. Now I'm really angry about it. I remember being in the majority, and thinking it should be no big deal to simply not say those words and stand anyway. Now I feel oppressed and rejected. No one notices if you don't say those words. No one can really tell that you have a problem with the separation of church and state issue. You know the quote about the man who didn't speak up when they came for the Jews, then the Catholics, then the gays, and so there was no one left to speak up when they came for him? This feels like the beginning of that and it scares me to be one FB friend away from it.

  3. As far as I'm concerned, our kids can decide for themselves what to do about the pledge. Six year olds (and certainly three year olds) generally don't have any political or sophisticated religious ideals they feel duty-bound to uphold, nor should they. But they do want to fit in, so they will play along without thinking to hard about what it means. When I was a kid, the older I got the more I felt that making us say the pledge was both silly and a little creepy. I guess I am assuming my kids will feel the same way, but if they eventually want to make a stand one way or the other, I will support them whether I agree with them or not. I just don't expect it to be an issue, I guess.

    I do, however, agree that the "under God" part of the pledge seems obviously in defiance of the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court has a freaky odd idea about all that they call ceremonial deism that makes no sense to me.

  4. Well, we plan to introduce Sasha to a number of religions as well, but I don't think that we'll take the church route, probably something more academic.
    But part of the problem is: how many Christians do you know who introduce their kids to a religion other than their own? It's that tricky question of "can (and should) you be tolerant towards the intolerant"?

  5. So the long winded comment I tried to write somehow disappeared...suffice it to say that you should be totally confident on this one...you are 100% RIGHT!

  6. @Rebecca, Awwww too bad---it's so nice to not be the only long winded one! Thanks for telling me anyway. My husband's reaction to most of my posts and especially to this whole thing is "TLDD"---"Too Long Didn't Read." I try to assure him that women often DO read longer posts, but it's so nice to see it's true. Thanks for the support. I love being right. (Ha ha)

  7. @Sasha's parent: Interesting question. I've no idea of course. I believe that "Sunday School" or whatever they call it in Unitarian Universalist churches are something like courses in comparative religion. Although I suppose many Unitarians consider themselves Christian, I don't imagine their churches are considered Christian "enough" to count as not being hell-bound by most "Christian" churches in the US. My daughter has announced that she wants to be Catholic. I think she likes the statues of Mary. She says she doesn't know why she wants to be Catholic but insists that she wants to get ashes on her forehead!