The American Humanist Association launched their “Don’t Say the Pledge” Campaign on September 8, citing a recent poll that revealed one-third Americans want the phrase “under God” removed from the existing Pledge of Allegiance. Christian groups however, have contested the poll’s results, saying other polls have shown an overwhelming support in favour of the phrase.
AHA executive director Roy Speckhardt said that the contended phrase in the pledge excludes atheists and hence negates the words that follow.
“We have a responsibility to do what we can to make our pledge an appropriately inclusive one, regardless of whether or not we believe in a God,” Speckhardt said.
Don’t Say the Pledge Campaign was launched after a poll conducted by The Seidewitz Group in association with AHA revealed that as many as one-third Americans find the phrase “under God” to be irrelevant in the pledge. The poll, comprised of six questions, sampled 1,000 American adults and was conducted on May 29 this year. Apart from the fact that 34 percent respondents wanted the phrase removed from the pledge, the study also showed that the respondents’ answers varied significantly when they were informed about the history of the pledge.
The phrase, which was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, has drawn many legal challenges in the past. For instance, in May this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court turned down a lawsuit that wanted “under God” removed from the pledge.
“Although the words ‘under God’ undeniably have a religious tinge, courts that have considered the history of the pledge and the presence of those words have consistently concluded that the pledge, notwithstanding its reference to God, is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one. ...The fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling ‘stigmatized’ or ‘excluded’ as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection
principles,” concluded the court.
However, Speckhardt argued that Americans have the right to sit out of the pledge if they think it does not cater to them and that is in fact the best way to show one’s support for changing the pledge to its original version, which is definitely more inclusive.
“We don't have a way to keep track of people participating in the sit-out, but we anticipate hearing from a number of those who do. ...I've been asked why we don't advocate for just not saying those two words? If omitting the phrase isn't noticed by others, it isn't entirely honest, since only the speaker will know they've quietly not said them. ...And everyone will falsely assume that there's universal support for the pledge as it is worded. Noticed or not, more is needed to challenge the prejudiced view of government taking sides on God-belief,” Speckhardt said.
Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council director Travis Weber said that he is skeptical about AHA’s campaign. He believes AHA is trying this tactic now because its efforts elsewhere have failed.
“Recent polls have shown that at least nine out of 10 Americans support keeping the pledge as is. Most people can see right through such efforts as those the AHA engages in here; and thus, the group is only increasingly marginalizing itself,” Weber said.
Photo Credit: American Against the Tea Party