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STATEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FOR SECULAR HUMANISM REGARDING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE RULING
“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship.” (Thomas Jefferson)
(Amherst, NY) – June 27, 2002 – The Council for Secular Humanism welcomes the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government of the United States.
“Expressing fealty to a God, should not be a condition of citizenship. Love of country does not necessarily correlate to a love of God,” said Ed Buckner, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism. “While the attention of the nation is focused on the phrase ‘under God’ we should not lose sight of that other important phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘with liberty and justice for all,’ said Buckner. “In a country that prizes itself for protecting freedom, it cannot be that people are only free to agree with the majority.”
This ruling and the national debate it has prompted will serve as a history lesson for all citizens. The original Pledge of Allegiance, which was crafted by a Baptist minister, was completely secular and contained no reference to a “God.” The phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era, a time to which we do not wish to see the country return.
The original motto of the United States was the Latin phrase, “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of many, one.” And, Sen. Christopher Bond’s somewhat agitated expression of concern about preserving the oath of office for presidents belies the fact that the Constitution, at Article II, section 1, does NOT contain the phrase “so help me God” in the oath. In fact, the entire Constitution makes no reference to a supreme being.
While our current crop of political leaders rush to get photo ops of themselves on the Capitol steps, it might be instructive to return to the pronouncements of the true political giants who founded this country. Thomas Jefferson declared in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that, “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship.” John Adams said, “Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without pretence of miracle or mystery…”
The fact that a majority of Americans believe in God does not make it right to impose that belief on the minority of citizens who do not. It was not so very long ago in this country that a majority of citizens believed African Americans should not have the right to vote, the right to live in communities of their choosing, the right to a quality education.
As reports of death threats to the man who brought this case increase, presumably from “god-fearing Americans,” one cannot help but wonder what exactly is the benefit of a belief in a god for those people. As Edmund Burke said, “The tyranny of the multitude is a multiplied tyranny.”
Take a moment to try to counter the hate mail that is sure to be pouring into the 9th Circuit judges by sending a letter of support. The judges who are coming under fire are Alfred T. Goodwin, who wrote the opinion, and Stephen Reinhardt, who concurred.
You can send a note of support to these judges at:
The Honorable Alfred T. Goodwin
The Honorable Stephen Reinhardt
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
P.O. Box 193939
San Francisco, CA 94119-3939
You can also visit their website at: www.ca9.uscourts.gov