From today’s New York Times article on the Supreme Court hearing the case regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and “one nation under God”:
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that Congress unanimously added the words “under God” in the pledge in 1954.
“That doesn’t sound divisive,” he said.
This strikes me as a very strange thing for an intelligent man to say. It’s the moral equivalent of saying “Everybody voted for it, so it must be just.” Were The Chief Justice here, I’d remind him that in 1896 the Supreme Court itself voted that “separate but equal” was a fair and reasonable way to address the rights of racial minorities. Granted, that wasn’t unanimous. There was one lone, brave dissenter, Justice John Harlan, who predicted correctly that this decision would serve to deny benefits to minorities and would eventually be overturned in time. This is a clear cut example of a nearly unanimous, devisive decision.
It should be of interest that according to Dr. John W. Baer, author of The Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy (the author of the Pledge) explicitly avoided using the word “God”. There was a “pledge” previously used before Bellamy’s. It was written by George Balch and called, cleverly enough, “Balche’s Pledge”. The wording “We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country” was part of that pledge. Bellamy was a Baptist minister and a Freemason, and he placed high value on the separation of church and state in American society. He highlighted this belief by excluding “God” from his pledge to the American flag.
By the way, Baer website A Centennial History, 1892-1992, has a really nice timeline to the pledge on it, should anyone be interested.
But I digress. I looked for an email address for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, hoping to say to him what I’ve said here. Yes, I knew that he’d never see it himself, but at least one of his office minions would have seen, and maybe chalked me up as one more voice on the side the Constitution and equality for all. It would appear that no such address exists though, more’s the pity. In case this ever makes it to his attention though:
A unanimous vote by Congress simply means one of two things. It could mean nobody in Congress had the courage of their convictions to vote their mind, afraid they might be the lone dissenting vote. Or it could mean that Congress was not truly representative of the country when they made that vote. Either way, a unanimous vote by Congress does not mean that divisiveness has not come from this decision. You have only to look at your docket today to see that.
Please weigh the evidence at hand, and consider that a Pledge of Allegiance that everybody in the country can say, word for word, in unison together, is far less divisive than an amended Pledge that does not reflect the views of approximately 14% of the adult population of the United States.
Thank you for your attention.