Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and its Societal Implications (Social Science)
Even at the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I feel proud to assert that the United States of America, in many aspects, is the greatest country in the world, not solely by economic or military might, but by the revolutionary principles it was founded on. The relatively late founding of this country after the Enlightenment allowed it to evade the frequently violent discords that stemmed from the uncontrolled passions of monarchs, which plagued Europe for many centuries. One could always point to the intermittent follies and injustices committed in misguided haste throughout this nation's development, but doing so would be unfairly ignorant of the remarkable achievements the United States has made. In no other country is the rule of law placed so highly above the rule of man; in no other country is a person's presumption of innocence so vehemently upheld. In no other country is the fundamental right for anyone to think, speak, and worship what they wish so substantially protected from the condemnation of the majority. These rights and principles, spelled out in the Constitution, provide the basis for endless debate and interpretation, but one aspect that stands out is the relationship between the right to religious freedom and the mandated recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. The recitation Pledge of Allegiance in schools, to which the words "Under God" were appended in 1954, has been widely debated as a challenge against religious freedom, almost to a point of triviality. This question of the constitutionality of this seemingly small act produces broader implications, the sizes of which are simply astonishing.
My personal motive to investigate the various dimensions of this issue is the polarization of thought that is so deeply inset with the people I constantly interact with. I would consider my peers to be highly diverse by race, religion, and socioeconomic status, yet they are somehow, surprisingly cohesive and display notable intensity when asked about this issue; all seem to agree that the words "Under God" should not be included in the Pledge and that doing so represents a form of Establishment. I asked myself why there exists this disparity between such a diverse group of individuals and public policy of the nation. It then occurred to me that Enloe High School, as a whole is uniquely very liberal. Where else would Teen Democrats receive over forty regular members while no Republican equivalent has ever been established? Not considering viable counterarguments because of a fallacious complacency based solely on local sentiments would be highly inconducive to the learning of these otherwise highly erudite individuals. Therefore, I believe it is very important to investigate the side of this issue we rarely see.
Objectively, the question becomes whether a law requiring the teacher led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes the words "Under God", represents a violation of the Establishment clause or if it is simply an acknowledgment of many founding principles of the country, which were indeed derived from religious ideals. Many people who oppose the recitation of the Pledge because of the religious reference it contains are quick to equate this action to teacher led school prayer, which has had a longstanding history of being unconstitutional; teacher led prayer, even when voluntary, has repeatedly been deemed too coercive to be appropriate in a school setting. Pledge supporters contend that the recitation even with the words "Under God" does not constitute prayer and is purely ceremonial. Additionally, as expressed in respondent's brief in Elk Grove v. Newdow, the Establishment Clause was not attended intend completely sweep away government recognition of the role of religion in America or to compel an ignorant disregard for the Nation's religious heritage and character. To say that the Establishment Clause commands that government must actively ignore the significant religious aspects of the Nation's founding and character would, in practice, change the Establishment Clause into a command where the goal is not religious neutrality, but instead, a complete shunning of religion.
The Framers outlined the dangers of allowing a single citizen or group of citizens, based on any majority, to decide these fundamental questions; thus, the only responsible action is to aggressively direct the question of the Pledge and others like it to the Supreme Court, the unimpassioned body created explicitly to answer the deepest questions of law. However, perhaps what is most disconcerting is when the Supreme Court refuses to consider the constitutional implications of an issue. When the question of the Pledge was held before the Supreme Court, they shamefully defaulted to the fact that the petition was not the legal guardian of his daughter, the wronged party. The constitutionality of the Pledge has remained undecided for far too long. As Americans, it is our duty to break through the inhibitions of fear and apathy to demand that these questions be answered, for us and our posterity.