Is the Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional?

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A federal judge declared Wednesday that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional, a decision that could potentially put the divisive issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is the pledge unconstitutional? The first amendment to the US Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

So, I'd say, yes. The pledge is unconstitutional.

For if a school were to force my children to make a pledge of allegiance "to the flag of the United States of America," this would be counter to my family's religion, which tells us to make no other pledge of allegiance except to our God. Coersion to recite such a pledge would prohibit my family's free exercise of religion.

Consider that thought while listening to all the Christian rhetoric about "under God" in the pledge. It is as good an argument (if not better) as Michael Newdow's argument.



david rudd said...

thanks bob, that's a great spin!

Bob Robinson said...

Of course, the point I'm making is rhetorical; the matter has already been settled. In the case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943, the Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision (Minnersville School District v. Gobitis, 1940) that essentially forced Jehovah's Witnesses to pledge their allegiance to the flag. The court ruled that national unity overruled the right of the JWs to dissent in reciting the pledge. As a reaction to the 1940 decision, there was a rash of violence against JWs across the nation, for they were viewed as unamerican.

In the 1943 case, Justice Jackson wrote the majority opinion, finding that the school district violated the rights of the Jehovah's Witness students by forcing them to salute the American flag. Jackson said that efforts to create national unity through compulsion put minorities and dissenters at the mercy of "village tyrants" and "evil men," reflecting the court's disdain of the violence that had occured. Jackson wrote, "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion only achieves the unanimity of the graveyard." The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is the key. Jackson's majority opinion in the case said, "The very purpose of the Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the reach of majorities and officials. One's right to worship, life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend upon the outcome of no election."

My point is this: I have more in common with the JWs and their dissent on reciting the pldge than I do with the Religious Right and their seeking to force students to say the pledge and keep "under God" in it.