By Herb Silverman
Here’s a confession from an atheist: I would not want school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily if the words “under God” were removed. Why? Because those two controversial words at least motivate some people to examine the Pledge and reflect on what it represents.
My atheist friends should not be too alarmed, though, because I would like “under God” removed from the Pledge.
I recited the godless version until my twelfth birthday, June 14, 1954. On that Flag Day, President Eisenhower signed into law the addition of “under God,” turning a secular pledge into a religious one. These words were inserted at the height of the McCarthy era to distinguish us Americans from those godless Communists.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the phrase “under God” constituted an endorsement of religion, and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. However, this Newdow v. United States case was overruled on another Flag Day, June 14, 2004, when the Supreme Court determined that Newdow was a non-custodial parent and therefore lacked “prudential standing” to bring the case on his daughter’s behalf. (Michael Newdow was the featured speaker for the twentieth anniversary celebration of our local secular humanist group this month.)
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