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Old 24 Apr 2012, 09:47 PM   #358458 / #1
Barefoot Bree
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Default A Different Approach to "Under God" in the Pledge

Hooray for the American Humanist Association!

In Massachusetts, they're challenging the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, but from an entirely different angle. Up till now, everyone's gone after the Establishment clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution. But this time, using MA's stellar record of equal rights legislation and court rulings, they are challenging it under the Equal Protection guarantees of the state's own constitution.

And I - along with many others - think it has a very high chance of succeeding, and setting the all-important precedent.

Press Release

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Oral Arguments Presented in Massachusetts Case Challenging “Under God” in Pledge of Allegiance

For Immediate Release

Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088 ext. 105
bmagee@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, February 14, 2012)—Yesterday afternoon the American Humanist Association argued in Massachusetts Superior Court that the state’s constitutional equal rights amendment should bar the practice of public schools conducting a daily flag-salute exercise that utilizes the version of the Pledge of Allegiance that includes the phrase “under God.”

This case, Jane Doe, et. als. v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District et al, is particularly unique and important because the state’s constitutional equal protection guarantees are the basis of the suit, not the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. This same strategy could be replicated in other jurisdictions.

“The daily recitation in public schools of a pledge declaring that the nation is ‘under God’ is discriminatory toward atheists and humanists,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case. “No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers.”

Currently, Massachusetts law requires public school teachers to begin each day with a classroom recitation of the Pledge for the purpose of instilling patriotism and love of country. On behalf of the plaintiffs, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is asking for a court declaration that daily recitation of the “under God” version of the pledge is discriminatory. They also seek a court order that other, nondiscriminatory means should be used to instill patriotism.

The plaintiffs are not trying to discontinue patriotic exercises, but seek only to make those exercises inclusive and nondiscriminatory. The federal government added “under God” to its wording of the Pledge in 1954, at the height of the McCarthy era during the Cold War, whereas before that the Pledge simply declared that the nation was “one nation indivisible.” Plaintiffs are requesting that this inclusive version be used once again in Massachusetts, and/or that other means of instilling patriotism be used, such as reading about important historical figures and events. The original version of the Pledge, written in 1892, is completely secular and inclusive of all Americans.

The suit was originally filed in November 2010. In denying the defendants’ earlier motion to dismiss, the judge on May 25, 2011 wrote in part: “The daily affirmation to children that America is ‘one nation under God’ cannot be characterized as just a meaningless ceremony, for in the context of daily public school recitation (accompanying the salute of the national flag) such a statement becomes the equivalent of official State doctrine – far from meaningless…”

The court took the motions for summary judgment under advisement and did not indicate when a ruling could be expected.
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Old 24 Apr 2012, 10:04 PM   #358464 / #2
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I hope they succeed...the odds do seem fairly good.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 02:16 PM   #358679 / #3
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The downside of this approach is that even if they set a precedent, it's only valid locally, and since it's based on the equal rights amendment of a state constitution, it might only be replicated on a state by state basis. It might be a good first step, but doing it this way is going to make it like gay marriage, in that it would be 50-60 years before even a majority of states follow suit, most likely.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 02:19 PM   #358680 / #4
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Could someone not follow suit in federal court under the federal law, though, citing this as a non-binding but relevant precedent?
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 07:59 PM   #358776 / #5
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Originally Posted by Barefoot Bree View Post
Could someone not follow suit in federal court under the federal law, though, citing this as a non-binding but relevant precedent?
Sure, one could try.

The process would have to go like this:
1) File a similar suit in a different state (assuming this one wins).
2) Lose.
3) Appeal to the State Court of Appeals.
4) Lose again.
5) Repeat until you get to the SCOTUS (I think 2-3 more levels).
6) Hope you win, and they don't just boot it back because the plaintiff(s) no longer has standing, or find some other reason to not hear the case. Even if the SCOTUS hears the case, I'm not sure the current make up would rule favorably, which, of course, would then moot all the work that's been done.

The SCOTUS has been ducking and dodging these kinds of cases for decades now, and I wouldn't find it at all a stretch that they would fall back on standing, or barring that, the old stand by of Ceremonial Deism. The latter would make it very hard to get overturned for a very long time.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 09:39 PM   #358808 / #6
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I find the whole notion of pledging to a flag offensive in the first place.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 09:47 PM   #358814 / #7
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Yeah - it does smack of Fascism.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 09:50 PM   #358817 / #8
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Quote:
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I find the whole notion of pledging to a flag offensive in the first place.
With you 100$% on that, Poli.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 09:52 PM   #358820 / #9
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Jawohl.

Ur.. yup.

Back to the point - you're probably right. But if we must win state by state, just as SS marriage proponents are having to go, then so be it.
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Old 25 Apr 2012, 11:42 PM   #358879 / #10
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In fact, until the US entered WWII "hand over the heart" was NOT the most common way to salute the US flag:



(not photoshopped)
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Old 26 Apr 2012, 12:57 AM   #358898 / #11
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I'd like to see someone challenge that as theologically inappropriate, associating God with something that does not deserve that association.
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Old 26 Apr 2012, 01:30 AM   #358906 / #12
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If you're talking about the Nazi salute, that was ended at the start of US involvement in WWII - well before "under god" was added.
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Old 26 Apr 2012, 02:18 AM   #358915 / #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
I'd like to see someone challenge that as theologically inappropriate, associating God with something that does not deserve that association.
Many of the more theologically (not politically) conservative groups refuse the pledge, such as the JWs, Seventh-Day Adventists and certain branches of the Society of Friends. It's because of the implied idolatry, though, not God's reputation as such. You'd think all Christians would refuse considering the whole "No man can serve two masters" thing, but I guess no one is surprised to see Christians ignoring the big J.
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Old 26 Apr 2012, 11:38 AM   #358991 / #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattShizzle View Post
In fact, until the US entered WWII "hand over the heart" was NOT the most common way to salute the US flag:



(not photoshopped)
That's very interesting, didn't know that. If you had shown me the pic (sans flag and context), i'da put a million bucks on it being a pic of Hitler Youth.
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Old 26 Apr 2012, 02:50 PM   #359035 / #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Valheru View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattShizzle View Post
In fact, until the US entered WWII "hand over the heart" was NOT the most common way to salute the US flag:



(not photoshopped)
That's very interesting, didn't know that. If you had shown me the pic (sans flag and context), i'da put a million bucks on it being a pic of Hitler Youth.
It would appear not....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellamy_salute

The Bellamy Salute seems to have been commonplace....
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Old 27 Apr 2012, 09:12 AM   #359249 / #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
I'd like to see someone challenge that as theologically inappropriate, associating God with something that does not deserve that association.
Many of the more theologically (not politically) conservative groups refuse the pledge, such as the JWs, Seventh-Day Adventists and certain branches of the Society of Friends. It's because of the implied idolatry, though, not God's reputation as such. You'd think all Christians would refuse considering the whole "No man can serve two masters" thing, but I guess no one is surprised to see Christians ignoring the big J.
That reminds me of something that I posted on long ago: Some Fundies Are Apolitical - Secular Café
After mentioning the Jehovah's Witnesses, I continued with discussing
Should Christians VOTE?
at the site of the Restored Church of God, an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God, an offshoot of the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh-Day), an offshoot of Seventh Day Adventism, originally the Millerites.

The arguments were
  • God fixes elections and other political contests, therefore, voting is pointless.
  • Xians should be concerned with Jesus Christ's kingdom, not with earthly ones.
  • No leader in the Bible was ever elected.
  • Earthly politics is divisive and full of strife, and it attracts power-hungry people.
Thus implying that God fixes contests between such people, which strikes me as rather odd.
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Old 27 Apr 2012, 04:58 PM   #359342 / #17
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Interesting! I'm not sure I've ever seen a Christian argument for non-voting before except from historical monarchists, though I can see how it is one natural progression of thought from the kind of thing we're discussing.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 01:37 AM   #359487 / #18
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The interesting story behind the Massachusetts law is that, in 1977 I believe, it was passed by state legislature. Gov. Dukakis vetoed the law after asking the state supreme court for an opinion on its constitutionality. Asking for an opinion on such things from the supreme court was standard procedure. The state supreme court informed Dukakis that provisions of the law were unconstitutional so Dukakis vetoed it. But the legislature overrode the veto and it became law.

George Bush Sr used Dukakis' veto to beat Dukakis in the presidential campaign in 1988.

When this law came into effect in Massachusetts I was in high school. I remember when they started doing the pledge each morning. I was told to stand. I refused. This happened several times and the teacher finally gave up and I remained seated for the pledge for the rest of my days in high school.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 02:45 AM   #359493 / #19
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I actually got in trouble for not saying it in 2nd grade. I stood and put my hand over my heart but just didn't feel like saying it out loud. Had no idea at the time that the SC had ruled years before kids can't be compelled to say it in public school. By HS maybe 2 or 3 people in the homeroom would say it until the 1990-1991 year (my Jr year) when we were getting ready for/involved in Gulf War I.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 01:26 PM   #359592 / #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Interesting! I'm not sure I've ever seen a Christian argument for non-voting before except from historical monarchists, though I can see how it is one natural progression of thought from the kind of thing we're discussing.
Historical monarchists? Do you have in mind monarchists from past centuries? There aren't exactly many recent advocates of activist monarchs, as opposed to ceremonial ones.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 02:44 PM   #359602 / #21
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QUESTION

Is the "one nation under god" bit part of the US constitution?

Reason for asking - in another context I was given to understand that constitutional amendments had to go through a pretty tortuous procedure involving inter alia acceptance by a majority of states.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 02:52 PM   #359604 / #22
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No.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 03:37 PM   #359615 / #23
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(Wikipedia)Pledge of Allegiance


Quote:
The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an expression of loyalty to the federal flag and the republic of the United States of America, originally composed by Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress as the pledge in 1942.[1] The Pledge has been modified four times since its composition, with the most recent change adding the words "under God" in 1954.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 05:23 PM   #359633 / #24
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Historical monarchists? Do you have in mind monarchists from past centuries? There aren't exactly many recent advocates of activist monarchs, as opposed to ceremonial ones.
I was thinking of Walter Butler, if you must know, who justified his war crimes during the American Revolution on the premise that democracy was rebellion against the laws of God. Nasty sot. Though he got his comeuppance; his last words were, famously, "Shoot then! Shoot and be damned!" I imagine there are other contemporary examples though.
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Old 28 Apr 2012, 07:03 PM   #359643 / #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney Dobson View Post
QUESTION

Is the "one nation under god" bit part of the US constitution?
Here's an online copy of that document: U.S. CONSTITUTION I suggest that you read it some time.

Its absence of the Xian God caused a lot of controversy in the first century of the US's existence: Amazon.com: The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State (9780393328370): Isaac Kramnick, R. Laurence Moore: Books

An older version of its first chapter: WashingtonPost.com: The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness

Quote:
Reason for asking - in another context I was given to understand that constitutional amendments had to go through a pretty tortuous procedure involving inter alia acceptance by a majority of states.
Yes.

Amending the US Constitution – Methods For Amending the US Constitution
2/3 of both Houses of Congress must approve it, and then 3/4 of all the States. It does not need the President's official support.
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