by Allen Snyder
I 'm no legal scholar, but I know enough about the Pledge of Allegiance, the US Constitution, religious right-wing whack-jobs and this mostly conservative US Supreme Court to prognosticate a little about how this 'under God ' business is going to play out.
Unless you 've been under a really big rock with most Bush supporters, you know that arguments have concluded at the US Supreme Court in the case of the atheist father suing to have 'under God ' removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. He claims it violates the separation of church and state and legally amounts to the state, through the public school system, endorsing, favoring, preferring, or 'establishing ' a particular religion (or sub-set of religions, in this case).
While any Constitutionally astute American knows 'under God ' should be stricken, this politically conservative and unabashedly biased rightist Court will toss a bone to its boss ' nutty fundamentalist Christian base. This Court will vote 6-2 (Injustice Scalia has inappropriately recused himself) to keep God in the Pledge. The majority will, with its finite wisdom and revisionist conservative history, decide that since America owes its heritage to religion and in particular Christianity (a very useful myth), since reciting the Pledge is not required or mandatory and no child is being forced or coerced into saying it, the prepubescent atheists (or Deists, Rastas, Satanists, Wiccans, Buddhists or whatever) can just suck it up, stand (or sit?) there, and keep their non-believing little mouths shut while everybody else (the real Americans, don 't you know) recites it. Any parent who doesn 't want their up-and-coming Communist participating in the Patriotic Pledge ritual can send a note to school permitting the budding Commie to either opt out entirely or perhaps recite the Pledge while omitting the offensive phrase.
The Court 's conservative majority cannot and will not disallow the use of 'under God ' for both legal and political reasons. The inevitable fallout just wouldn 't be worth it. A legal nightmare of petitions and suits to remove 'God ' from our money, end Congressional prayers, government-sponsored days of prayer, faith-based initiatives, and to even tax churches (gasp!) would quickly follow and nobody 's in the mood for that. Coupled with the inevitable screeching that would ensue from the 75% of Americans who claim Christianity as their religious neurosis, this Court has little incentive to do its Constitutional duty.
SCOTUS ' decision will be immensely popular, vindicating for the fundamentalist revisionists the important and necessary role of not just religion, but Christianity, in US government. Legally and practically, however, this decision will, of course, be a disaster.
It will be wrong primarily for two reasons; because it blatantly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and because it will exacerbate religious divisiveness among school children the ones who will ultimately suffer this decision and who have no business being the Right 's pawns in this debate.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that Bible recitation, school-sponsored prayer, and Ten Commandments displays are all unconstitutional, since they either illegally coerce students into participating in specific religious rites or illegally force them to view offensive religious materials or icons. The mere inclusion of 'under God ' in the Pledge elevates it from a benign (?) civic to patently religious ritual. If it 's illegal to Bible read and pray in public schools, then it is surely equally illegal to Pledge Allegiance via the same Christian God pipeline. Here, it 's a matter of degree, not kind.
Thus, including 'under God ' in a pledge said by schoolchildren of myriad backgrounds violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and only someone sorely blinded by religious ideology and armed with a heavy load of revisionism could think otherwise. The practical consequences will transpire on playgrounds, bus-stops, cafeterias, and home-rooms in schools all across the country. Peer pressure, conformity, stigmatization, stereotyping, shame, and guilt will all be intensified. Will you say the Pledge, make friends, and be popular or not say it and get your ass kicked regularly by the Christians who call you a God-hater or a heathen, or a Commie.
For elementary students, conformity and the simple threat of being tagged as different will probably be enough to keep them in line. They 'll say it so they don 't stand out. But what happens when the shy little conformist becomes a big-mouth rebellious boat-rocking teenager? Sure, no 3rd grader 's going to object to reciting the Pledge when the price is getting bullied, beat up, or pants-ed every day. But when principles and free thought emerge in high school and the more enlightened students realize how illegal 'under God ' is, we 're talking controversy, contention, and maybe even fights and violence.
These consequences are not entirely unexpected and are what we ask when we allow for a biased Supreme Court padded with right-wing partisans determined to validate the American Christian majority 's historical, religious, and legal ignorance.
Allen Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and originally published by www.opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.