Pagans and the Pledge of Allegiance
By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide
Recently, during a conversation about schools and the Pledge of Allegiance, someone casually said to me, “Oh, you don’t say it, though, right? Because you’re not a Christian?” It wasn’t said in a confrontational way at all, but I was kind of surprised by the logic behind the statement. On thinking about it, I suspect it may not be an uncommon attitude among people who don’t know anything about Paganism.
Let’s face it, the Pledge of Allegiance can be a pretty hot-button issue for some folks. After all, there’s that whole separation of church and state bit, and here we are asking our children to recite an oath to the United State which includes a reference to what is clearly the Christian deity. But — much like other controversial issues in today’s society — there’s no big rulebook that says “Pagans can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance!”
The Pledge of Allegiance is actually based upon a poem written by a Baptist minister in 1892. Originally, it read as follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That was it. No mention of God, or even the United States itself. The reference to the “flag of the United States of America” was added in the early 1920s. During the Communist uproar of the 1950s, the words “under God” were added by Congress, turning the simple pledge into what some people see as public prayer.
So — do Pagans say the Pledge of Allegiance? I spoke to a few Pagans from around the country to see how they would respond to this issue, and the answers might surprise you.
Morgaine S., a Wiccan from Summerville, South Carolina, said, “I’m a Navy veteran and so is my husband, and I do love my country. I wouldn’t feel right about not saying the Pledge when asked to. I say the Pledge, but when I do I say “under my gods,” rather than the “under God” that everyone else says.”
A ceremonial magician who asked to be identified only as Lucius has just the opposite perspective. He said, “I don’t say the Pledge at all, because if you have to tell someone to pledge their allegiance, it’s meaningless. An oath of allegiance, whether it involves a god or not, should be voluntary and not something I’m compelled to do.”
Finally, Justyn Raine is a Pagan from California who says it doesn’t matter what god is referred to in the Pledge. “I say “under God,” because in my heart I know I’m referring to my god, not someone else’s. If you believe in any god at all, you can say the Pledge of Allegiance as it’s written.”
So, what does this mean to people who are wondering if they should say the Pledge? Political opinions aside, it’s a matter that’s a personal one — if you feel comfortable with saying the Pledge as it is currently written, go ahead. If you’d like to substitute your own deity’s name — or the phrase “under gods” instead — then do so. Likewise, if you don’t believe you should say the Pledge at all — for whatever reason — then don’t do it. The choice is yours — after all, in the United States we have the freedom to speak (or not speak) as our conscience guides us.
4 thoughts on “Pagan’s Point of Interest – Pagans and the Pledge of Allegiance”
While each individual has the freedom to say the or a pledge as you note, the real question is whether and what the government should say about religion in a pledge it prescribes.
The government’s inscription of the phrase “In God we trust” on coins and currency, as well as its addition of the words “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase “In God we trust” as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be corrected. Under our Constitution, the government has no business proclaiming that “we trust” “In God.” Some of us do, and some of us don’t; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard. Nor does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country. The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds, and it certainly has no business assembling citizens’ children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge–affirmation of a god and all–as a daily routine.
But that’s just me talking. The courts, on the other hand, have sometimes found ways to excuse such things, for instance with the explanation that they are more about acknowledging tradition than promoting religion per se. Draining the government’s nominally religious statements or actions of religious meaning (or at least purporting to do so) and discounting them as non-religious ritual–sometimes dubbed “ceremonial deism”–is one way the courts have sometimes found them not to conflict with the First Amendment. Ordinary folks, though, commonly see things quite differently; when most read “[i]n God we trust,” they think the Government is actually declaring that “we” as a people actually “trust” the actual “God” they believe in. If they truly understood it as merely a ritualistic phrase devoid of religious meaning, they would hardly get as exercised as they do about proposals to drop it. As you can imagine, those more interested in championing their religion than the constitutional principle of separation of church and state sometimes seek to exploit and expand such “exceptions” even if it requires they fake interest only in tradition.
Ohhh… I stay silent at the ‘Under God’ part – or simply say ‘Under my Gods,’ which does tend to get me out of sync. My problem with the pledge is the monotone herd that it’s creating.
You know I have never stopped to think about it that way, a monotone herd. But you are completely right. After I stopped to think about it, I thought about a pack of zombies(I watch way too many horror movies, lol!).
Adverse as this country is, I think they ought to seriously start to bend and adapt to other Religions. There is every Religion in the book in this country. But we still abide by practices and laws that are 200 to 300 years old. I just believe they need to update a few things to accommodate the rest of us. Paganism is growing at a very rapid rate. Who knows, perhaps one day the Pledge will include “Our Gods.”
Personally, when it comes to saying the Pledge, I just mouth. And when I get to the part we are talking about, my lips quit moving. I figure one of these days, they will see my daughter poking the heck out of me(because she thinks they is something wrong with me). She cause such a huge scene, I’ll get carted off as a terrorist, lol!
You and me both! When I hear their rendition, I don’t hear any freedom. As a Vet of the US Army, it leaves me disturbed. I hear sheep, cattle, that Pink Floyd music video “Another Brick in the Wall.” I hope that makes sense!
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