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  • Writer's pictureAndie Kantor

One Nation Under Gods Still Doesn't Cut It

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

School Site Council (SSC) meets once a month. For the last year and a half, I have proudly held the title of Parliamentarian. It is my job to uphold the rules and procedures of SSC. It's usually a fun night and enjoy working with my colleagues and the parents and community members who come to support our school.

One thing we do at SSC is begin our meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. I think this is awesome and I have no issue in repeating my allegiance to my country. However there is always a fragment of a line I do not speak aloud: under God. This omission causes others to stumble over their own words, look around, and sometimes feel uncomfortable that I or they have made a mistake. It breaks them out of their recitation. I'm ok with that.

So. There are two reasons I do not do this.

First, it wasn't until 1948 that anyone mentioned God in the Pledge, and not until 1954 that it became public, so it's relatively recent addition, not a country tradition that dates back to our founding. And here, for the first time in my life, I will source Wikipedia. You can read all about it and look at the different incarnations of our Pledge. It's pretty interesting. One of my aha's from this article was the following quote:

The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds. As a socialist, he had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity[6]but decided against it - knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.[8]

Unacceptable. But I digress.

It's the second reason I don't say "under God" that I'm more passionate about.

You see, I believe in pluralism.

What is pluralism? Here's one definition: (Oh, here I go citing Wiki as my source again.)

Religious pluralism is a loosely defined expression concerning acceptance of various religions, and is used in a number of related ways:

  • As the name of the worldview according to which one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus that at least some truths and true values exist in other religions.

  • As acceptance of the concept that two or more religions with mutually exclusive truth claims are equally valid. This posture often emphasizes religion's common aspects.

  • Sometimes as a synonym for ecumenism, i.e., the promotion of some level of unity, co-operation, and improved understanding between different religions or different denominationswithin a single religion.

  • As term for the condition of harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religionsor religious denominations.

  • The Catholic Church continually teaching that the fullness of revelation is, 'in and through Jesus Christ' calls the mixing of religions 'syncretism' and they teach that this view is heretical.[ambiguous]

  • As a social norm and not merely a synonym for religious diversity.[1]

I love the idea of pluralism. It makes me feel warm inside. I think I had my first encounter with a pluralistic society in Starhawk's novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing. It just seemed so cool to me that everyone's faith was honored, and there were altars and places of worship of all sorts. While there wasn't complete harmony--when is there ever, with we disagreeable humans?--it was relatively peaceful, and there was space for everyone's point of view.

It is not pluralistic to say "under God," as that implies that there is only one deity, even though She/He/It isn't named specifically. This leaves out the many pantheistic religions, i.e. Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans. It also leaves out Atheists, who don't believe in a God at all. Forcing people to say "under God"when it's not their belief system just seems cruel; a pluralistic society accepts and embraces people from every faith. And non-faith. This is what I want for our great country, and this, I believe, is what our forefathers wanted to create when they made it. They left out any mention of deity in our Constitution and Bill of Rights for a reason. Additionally, the United States of America was started particularly by those trying to escape religious persecution. As a country who places value in the separation between Church and State, the line "under God" should never have been added to our Pledge in the first place. It's unpatriotic.

Schoolchildren should not say "under God" in a state-based setting, like a public school. Religion has no place there. Ha! I can just see you, my dear friends who are reading this, cringing and thinking to yourself, "oh no, she's about to go into..."

Yep. Prayer in school.

Here's my dealio. While I'm joyful to cast a circle and break out the pentagrams any time, it's not appropriate in a public school setting, so I don't do this at work. I also don't discuss my belief system at work. Silent prayers to the goddess for the words to get through to these kids, silent grounding so I don't put my fist through an unruly child's face, silent moments of appreciation when I'm gardening in front of the library, these are all ok--and I would expect students, if they choose, to silently pray for strength before a test or big game, or whatever they need. If it's nutrition (that's middle school for "recess"), and a small group wants to gather alone to pray together, I'm ok with that, too. These are all personal and private. But prayer during instructional minutes? A public moment of prayer at school that does not include the beliefs of everyone present? Never. To assume that everyone believes the same thing and is comfortable...well, you know what it means when we assume something. (For those of you who did not have Ms. Paul in elementary school: "to assume something means to make an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me.'" I've always thought that statement to be phenomenal words to live by and I've never spelled it wrong. Thanks, Ms. Paul, wherever you are.)

Everyone ought to be allowed to worship as they please, and be included in all parts of patriotism, rather than excluded or pointedly ignored. Luckily, I live in a place that allows me to state this opinion.

I am grateful.

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