Friday, October 9, 2009

Pledge Of Allegiance "Miranda Warning"

We all know (I hope) that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees our rights to free speech and freedom of religion. It also guarantees that the Federal Government will not make a national religion to which others will be forced to adhere. All public school students should be taught the basics of the Constitution and American government. Immigrants who obtain citizenship have to learn about such things.

We have all heard how people being arrested have to be read their rights ("Miranda" warning). Since the Constitution does not say that the justice system will appoint you a lawyer if you can not afford one, maybe it makes sense to tell people that. I have a little more trouble understanding how the Miranda warning apparently assumes that people might say something to a law officer and that the words will be kept secret, but that's a topic for a different blog.

These days we have controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the G-word (God). Now it seems that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) wants students to be given a Miranda-type warning that they do not have to say the pledge if they don't want to.

To me, this is both silly and a form of reverse discrimination. If you are warned about saying "under God" as part of the Pledge, it sets religious statements apart. It is almost hard to understand why AU is chasing this policy. Their website says the following to summarize their stance on religion in public schools:

Public schools serve children from a variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds. The classroom is an inappropriate place for school-sponsored worship. School officials should not prescribe prayers or teach religious doctrines, such as creationism, in the classroom.

Saying "under God" in the pledge is not particular to one religion. It is not worship in any sense of the word that I know. It is not a prayer or a religious doctrine.

Read more on USA Today


LexAequitas said...

Many teachers will attempt to force their students to say the Pledge. This warning is just as much for them that their students do actually have some rights.

Schoolchildren often do not know their rights. Keep in mind that while "freedom of speech" is covered, schools often restrict freedom of speech in multiple ways. Moreover, the Pledge is introduced in kindergarten.

"If you are warned about saying "under God" as part of the Pledge, it sets religious statements apart."

Ah, you agree "Under God" is a religious statement. So you prefer the direct discrimination of having the students recite this daily to the supposed indirect discrimination of letting them know they don't have to recite it?

Surely you're aware of enough history to know that "Under God" in the Pledge was initially intended to refer quite specifically to the Christian deity.

History Matters said...

You make some good points, and I wouldn't argue with those. But, no, I don't agree that "Under God" is religious speech in the sense you seem to mean. It is not worshipful, it does not seem to constitute a religion based on the Founders' writings. Most religious people would not think that saying the Pledge, including the words "under God," would keep them out of Hell for the day. And I'm quite certain our Founders would not have called that an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

But it IS religious speech in the same sense of many examples I have cited in the blog where such speech has been censored. Is saying we are a nation "under God" substantially different from our Declaration of Independence saying our rights come from a Creator (with a an upper-case "C")? Some schools are banning posting of that phrase. Many students have been censored for harmless speech that is not worshipful but mentions "God" or another religious idea. Some students (including one of my children some years ago) believe you can not even say the word "god" in school. It's within that theme that I wrote the post.

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

LexAequitas said...

Supposing the warning consisted not only of informing students they did not have to say the Pledge, but also letting them know they could permissibly pray, read from scripture, or whatever else?

You often complain, rightly I feel, about students being unduly censored. While I don't think removing UG from the Pledge would constitute censorship, there are places where censorship of religious ideas occurs. So really, having a clearly stated policy on these matters is in all party's best interests.