When Children of Atheist Parents Are Forced to Say the Pledge February 23, 2011

When Children of Atheist Parents Are Forced to Say the Pledge

It’s hard enough for atheists teachers to deal with the Pledge of Allegiance and saying “Under God.” If you don’t want to say it, you may very well lose your job depending on where you work.

But it’s just as tough if you’re the child of atheist parents. If you don’t stand up for the Pledge or you sit outside the classroom while others say it, you could be subject to teasing, taunting, and possibly worse.

David Niose, President of the American Humanist Association, shares some of these stories in Psychology Today — stories of children who are taught one thing by their parents and something else entirely by their teachers, and of parents whose patriotism is called into question:

Nevertheless, in the eyes of some, there is reason to question the patriotism of Lisa and John. Their flaw, it seems, is that they don’t conform to official government doctrine on the existence of a divinity. “Our six-year-old daughter came home from first grade very confused,” Lisa explains. “In school she was taught to stand up each morning and declare that we are a nation under God, but she knows that mommy and daddy don’t believe in any gods. She wanted to know, why does the school say there’s a God when mommy and daddy say there isn’t?”

Lisa expresses concern that the “under God” wording strongly implies that nonbelievers are less patriotic than those who believe. “This is a patriotic exercise, let’s be clear about that,” she says. “So if this official patriotic ceremony, conducted every day with hand over heart, declares that our country is under God, then obviously the inference is that true patriots must believe in God. That’s always made me uneasy, but now that my kids are getting to school age it really worries me.”

For what it’s worth, some atheist parents are still working with Michael Newdow on a lawsuit to rule the Pledge unconstitutional.

In the meantime, we’re stuck with it. It’d be nice if every teacher made clear to their students that no one is required to say the Pledge — because no one is — but we all know most teachers don’t know that and wouldn’t say that even if they did know it.

What would you advise students to do?

One suggestion in the article is to replace the offending phrase with something else, but that doesn’t really help resolve the issue:

Most atheist and Humanist children indeed participate in the Pledge, though many parents report that their kids discreetly remain silent while the words “under God” are spoken. (Melissa’s daughter quietly, and cleverly, says “under law” instead.)

Most secular parents are not thrilled with such compromises, but realize that there are few better options. “By participating, even if you don’t say ‘under God,’ you are validating the religious language, because nobody knows that you aren’t saying the religious words,” John says. “By standing and participating, you give the appearance of unanimity. It perpetuates the ridiculous idea that all patriotic people believe in God.”

I don’t want to perpetuate it. That’s why I don’t say the Pledge at all in my classroom. I just continue on with my business, silently, while students who want to say it are welcome to do so.

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  • Maddie

    As someone who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness (so I didn’t say the pledge) and an atheist with children now…
    Well, I don’t buy the whole patriotism thing anyway. I was born here, woop. We are in a better situation than most countries but I’m not blindly proud. Patriotism reminds me a lot of religion.
    Anyway, I just stood up, didn’t say anything, and didn’t put my hand over my heart. If I was ever teased it wasn’t severe enough to make me remember it.

  • Meee

    As a non-US person, I’ve always found the entire concept of the pledge pretty bizarre, especially in schools.

  • So glad I live in Canada, where we don’t have a stigma about saying some kind of pledge… In elementary school we’d rise for the national anthem, which was bad enough with the words “God keep our land glorious and free”

  • A’Llyn

    I was home schooled, by non-formal-structured-teaching parents, so I’ve never said the pledge.

    I guess it’s normal, since people do it, but it always struck me as kind of weird.

    I don’t think I’d want to say it even without the god part–I just plain don’t want to pledge allegiance to a banner every morning. Of course, that’s easy to say now as an adult. It would have been harder as a kid if everyone else was saying it.

    I did like Calvin’s (of ‘and Hobbes’) version, “I pledge allegiance to Queen Fragg and her mighty state of hysteria…” alas, he didn’t get to finish, so I don’t know how it ended.

  • Samiimas

    She wanted to know, why does the school say there’s a God when mommy and daddy say there isn’t?

    “Well you see the school wasn’t talking about ‘God’ the deity, even though that’s been the meaning every single other time you’ve seen the word ‘god’ used. The pledge is just a form of ‘ceremonial deism’ that acknowledges our country’s spirituality but doesn’t specifically apply to one religion, so therefore it’s not an endorsement of religion and perfectly okay to force you to say it!”

    That sounds condescending and stupid when addressed to a child, I can’t imagine how annoying it was for the adults who had to stand in court and listen to a judge make this same BS argument.

  • Erin W

    I am so glad I’m past the point where mandatory patriotism is part of my day. I’m sick of the whole spectacle, and it seems to grow more absurd by the year.

  • Marty

    I’m a 22 year Army veteran. I never say the pledge. I wouldn’t say it even without the under god part.I live my citizenship everyday. We should be proud of our service to our country, but I agree with Maddie that being born here is an accident of birth. You should be no more proud of this than being born the height you are (thanks George Carlin!).

  • Denise


    My son, when he was 13, experimented with his 1st Amendment right to refrain from saying the pledge. I’ll just say he caught red hell.

    And his principal (and the superintendent of the school) and I had quite the lovely dance. They didn’t fuck with him much after that.

  • Alexina

    My parents aren’t atheist, so the don’t understand why I don’t say the pledge. I’ve been trying to stay seated as well, but after seven years of the morning routine I often forget.

    Many of my friends don’t say the pledge either. One of my friends is forced by her parents to say it every night before dinner because she refuses to say grace.

    I want under god gone from the pledge, and I want the moment of silence gone from our school.It’s a waste of time, and I hate hearing the words “under god” every freaking morning.

  • Brent

    Let’s all remember, too, that the words “Under God” were inserted into the Pledge back in the 1950s – you know, Red Scare, McCarthyism, Commies under every bed and what not. In fact, it was the Catholic group the Knights of Columbus who led the charge for it.

    The guy who wrote the original Pledge was – wait for it – a Christian Socialist!! Here’s the Wikipedia article about the history of the Pledge:


    Some interesting information, to be sure.

  • I never say the pledge and noone in my class does either. It was quite funny when the principal was doing a teacher review on my teacher and when the pledge came up he and the teacher were the only ones saying it, he looked confused.

  • Mr Z

    I’m with Marty, I did 6 in the USN, and I don’t say the pledge either. I’m faithful to my kith and kin, and do not need to say stupid recitations to show it. I fly the flag as appropriate and I am glad to be a citizen. I do NOT support gods in any way.

    That it is not required is constitutional, and requiring children to say it is not. Those who object have a plank right there. Don’t stand, don’t recite. When enough people do not, things have to change… look at Egypt as an example.

    I would sign a petition, hold a sign, or sit in public councils to debate the argument. Any reference to gods of any kind in our government are wrong. period. Any argument in objection to that is an argument for theocracy. I will burn a theocracy to the ground.

    Read that again slowly. I will burn a theocratic government to the ground. It violates MY constitutional rights to establish theocratic rule. I will burn it to the ground. It violates my rights as a human. I will burn it to the ground. My advice? Don’t stand too close to theocrats.

  • Emma

    My (public) high school was a lot like Austin’s: you were weird if you *did* stand and say the pledge. Part of that’s because I lived in an area chock full of cappuccino drinking liberals. But part of it was also probably because reciting the pledge was part of the fairly boring morning announcements, and everyone got in the habit of not paying attention to those.

  • samala5793

    When my son was in 7th grade his teacher tried to punish him for refusing to stand up for the pledge. I told her if she did it again I would sue the crap out of the school. She never mentioned it again.

  • Christina

    My son’s say “under sky” if they even choose to say it. What an archaic tradition. Stating allegiance..demanding children who can’t even grasp the concept to repeat it mindlessly everyday.

  • The Other Tom

    I grew up in NJ, where we were required by law to say the pledge every morning, and where we were told very firmly that it was NOT optional. (AFAIK that’s still the case there.) In 13 years of school there, I only ever saw one kid excused from saying it after his parents very strongly objected, and their demand was approved only because neither parents nor child were American citizens.

    A lot of the time I simply didn’t say “under god”. Eventually The Simpsons came out and everyone learned Bart’s version, and perhaps half the kids in class said that instead of the official words. (If you want to ensure that kids have no respect whatsoever for the pledge, force them to say it every day…)

    In high school the rule was it had to be said every day in 1st period class. My senior year, first period was German, and fourth year German students were not permitted to speak English in the classroom, so we had to learn it in German. Trust me, saying it in German REALLY tweaks the sorts of fascists who believe it’s a good thing to force people to say it all the time and that “under god” must be a part of it. It also shows how very hitler-youth like it is to make kids say that stuff. (Germans who know about it are absolutely horrified by the fact that we make kids say that stuff here.)

    As an adult, I simply don’t say it, or stand up for it. My feelings of patriotism are none of anybody else’s business and they have no right to induce me to express them if I don’t feel like it or in any way I don’t approve of.

  • Dave

    Unfortunately, any lawsuit will most likely fail. The Supreme Court – in a case I am presently unable to recall – stated that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge amounted to “ceremonial deism,” and nothing more. Therefore, the Pledge itself – even with the silly addition – is Constitutional. However, there is no implied demand that a person reciting the Pledge also include the phrase. One can freely omit it in the verbal sequence.

  • spackledorfed

    at my elementary/middle and high schools (all parochial), if you didn’t stand up, you got detention. if your mouth didn’t move, you got detention. if what you were saying didn’t sound like the pledge, you got detention.

    needless to say, i got a lot of detentions for pledge-related activities.

  • Sinfanti

    It’s issues like these that make me glad to be raising my kids abroad rather than back home in a “red state”.

    @Mr. Z – You can borrow my Zippo anytime.

  • NotYou007

    I said the pledge every single day from kindergarten till the 5th grade when we moved. We said “under God” all those years but this was back in the 70’s and I went to church each Sunday and I believed in a God as did everyone else in school. I doubt there was an atheist among us back then.

    I was told to believe so I did and so did everyone else. We stood, placed our hands over our hearts and faced the flag and then sang. Every single day before school started we did this.

    Each day a student was choose to lead the entire class in the pledge and it was an honor to stand before the class and lead them. It was something you look forward to doing.

    You where an American. You where the best and all the other countries sucked. The Russians where communist and your enemies and you hated them. You where “Proud to be an American” and this was drilled into your head.

    As a 40 year old man that is now an atheist I get tired of hearing the “Proud to be an American” phrase and for people to tell others they are not “real Americans’

    I was born in the District of Columbia which is our Nations Capital so that makes me more of a “real American” than anyone else that was born in the United States.

    I’m more of an American than you because I was born in the Nations Capital. I’m a real American. See that flag? That is America and I am American.

    I’m an American and I love my Flag.

    And you know what? I do love my flag and I love my country but all this “I’m an American” stuff has become a huge turn off to me.

    It seems those that respect the flag and will die for it also show the most disrespect for it at the same time. They know nothing of the flag code and will drive down the road with old glory flying from the bed of their pick-ups but old glory is tattered and torn but they think they are respecting the flag when they are doing nothing but showing it disgrace.

    Yes, I went into a ramble but I’m an atheist that does love my flag and I do love my country and I would die defending it but don’t try to shove your God down my throat.

  • Anonymous


    I doubt there was an atheist among us back then.

    Betcha there was. But how would anyone have known? It was social suicide to speak out.

  • “When Children of Atheist Parents Are Forced to Say the Pledge”

    The children might refuse and make you proud; especially when they do so respectfully.

  • Keith

    Along with the problems of than “under god”. I have always considered the pledge kind of jingoistic.

  • The Other Tom

    How can we teach children to respect the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion when we are violating those rights in their classroom every day?

  • Dan W

    I remember having to say the pledge back in 1st grade, at the start of the school day. Back then I didn’t know or care to learn what those words meant. Then I went to a different school district from 2nd grade on, where they didn’t have us say the pledge at all.

    I’m against it now, partly because of the “under god” bit, but also because that sort of semi-required patriotism just seems creepy to me.

  • sagansong

    The public school my kids attended never said the pledge until 9/11. Then all of a sudden, the school ‘found patriotism’. My kids were vilified for not saying the pledge and for admitting they were atheists (brave souls they were). The school had been totally taken over by fundamentalist christians who wouldn’t have recognized christ if he slid down the flagpole and introduced himself at ‘gather at the pole’ in the mornings. My kids didn’t think much about their atheism until they were tormented by these christians. Once the christians got through with them, they were more resolved than ever in their atheist convictions. I guess I should thank them.

  • james r

    As someone mentioned earlier, the “under god” part was just added in the 50’s. I grew up in Texas and we said the pledge every single day, and honestly I dont have a problem with that at all. I do have a problem with the under god part.

  • TheRealistMom

    My oldest does not say the Pledge- she is vocally Atheist and is skeptical like her mom about the idea of “pledging” to a flag and the concept of forced patriotism. My youngest son I believe DOES say it, to be like his peers, but when ‘god’ has come up he knows mom doesn’t believe, and he knows mom doesn’t participate in the Pledge. It will be up to him to decide if he feels comfortable or not.

    One teacher did try to lean on my oldest about it, requiring that she at least stand. She and I both pulled up the same ACLU of Washington briefs regarding it, where it showed a student could not be compelled to support the Pledge even by standing… she never did have to drag them out though. I was prepared to raise holy hell, so to speak.

  • TychaBrahe

    I am a patriot and I say the pledge when the opportunity presents itself.

    I remain silent during the “under God” part, and if I am the one leading the pledge, I skip it. It wasn’t in the original anyway.

    “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

  • If you mumble the name, like “so help me Gob”, then it’s okay. Also, crossing one’s fingers is a time-honored loophole.

  • MikeW

    I’m hoping that when I have kids I’m able to tell them to just skip the “under god” part and if they’re feeling truly bold to skip straight to “indivisible” while everyone else is saying “under god” and finish the pledge before everyone else 🙂

  • Rieux


    Unfortunately, any lawsuit will most likely fail. The Supreme Court – in a case I am presently unable to recall – stated that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge amounted to “ceremonial deism,” and nothing more.

    Your prediction is probably right—but as Michael Newdow knows all too well (and commenter Brent hinted at above), the legislative history of the Congressional resolution that added “under God” to the pledge really makes that defense difficult in this case. In 1954, Congress, eager to declare that America was not like the Godless Commies(tm), made it extremely clear that they were adding those words to emphasize America’s reliance on God. Real, theistic, 1950s, atheist-hatin’, WASPy, Vastly More Than Just Ceremonial God. They were not subtle about it, and that’s precisely what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Newdow’s 2002 lawsuit:

    As the legislative history of the 1954 Act sets forth:

    At this moment of our history the principles underlying our American Government and the American way of life are under attack by a system whose philosophy is at direct odds with our own. ? Our American Government is founded on the concept of the individuality and the dignity of the human being. Underlying this concept is the belief that the human person is important because he was created by God and endowed by Him with certain inalienable rights which no civil authority may usurp. ? The inclusion of God in our pledge therefore would further acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral directions of the Creator. ? At the same time it would serve to deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism with its attendant subservience of the individual.

    H.R.Rep. No. 83-1693, at 1-2 (1954), reprinted in 1954 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2339, 2340. ? This language reveals that the purpose of the 1954 Act was to take a position on the question of theism, namely, to support the existence and moral authority of God, while “deny[ing] atheistic and materialistic concepts.” Id. Such a purpose runs counter to the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government’s endorsement or advancement not only of one particular religion at the expense of other religions, but also of religion at the expense of atheism.

    Then, on appeal (technically certiorari petition, but never mind) in the Newdow case, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t reach for the “ceremonial deism” nonsense. Instead, they made up an equally ridiculous new rule about the right of parents with custodial arrangements like Newdow’s to file lawsuits on behalf of their children. But that only solved the problem of Newdow’s suit particularly; I’m not familiar with the efforts Brent is referring to, but I presume that Newdow has found some atheist parents who aren’t susceptible to that “standing” argument.

  • Larry Meredith wrote:

    In elementary school we’d rise for the national anthem, which was bad enough with the words “God keep our land glorious and free”

    Instead of that, I always sing:

    “LET’S keep our land glorious and free”

    I’ll keep you all posted if/when I get any dirty looks or scolding 🙂

  • Henry Gallagher

    Well my national anthem begins,
    “God save our gracious Queen (King)”

    It goes on to implore God to “arise” and “scatter her (his) enemies”

    Imagine not singing that in a football stadium filled with 70,000 others who are singing!

  • Grimalkin

    I had my own problems with the whole pledge business – I moved to the US at 15. It wasn’t my choice, I only went to the US because my mother was transferred for her work, and I had absolutely no allegiances to the country.

    It was a big deal for me because I loved my home country and there I was, being forced to pledge allegiance to the place where I happened to be living (I’m not a hypocrite, by the way – I moved out of the US as soon as I was legally able to choose my own country of residence).

    I wasn’t technically forced to say the pledge, but I was forced to stand and place my hand over my heart. it was also made clear to me that not saying the pledge was seen as insulting. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

  • gsw

    Not having this problem myself – I can only suggest:
    Maybe Lisa could contact (or start) a school atheist society and arrange for the atheists in the class to stand, silent, while the pledge is said, then – when the others sit down – repeat their own version “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
    With 15% atheists in America Lisa’s 6 y.o. cannot be the only child of atheist(s) in her class.
    It is time to start herding cats!

  • Mihangel apYrs

    I am always uneasy teaching children to chant “pledges” etc to the State or leaders: it smacks of insecurity.

    In N Korea they make promises to the “great leader” or whoever it is at the moment, in Mao’s China there were pledges, as in Nazi Germany (big on “team building”)…..

    See a pattern? Mature democracies, confident in their status don’t need flim-flam; there is an unspoken acceptance that the people will support their nation when it matters

  • Steven

    I wasn’t raised by atheists per se; my parents were non-religious but encouraged me to find my own way. In grade school I decided not to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance – even at that early age I understood that compulsory loyalty oaths, especially those requiring one to profess belief in God, were profoundly at odds with the ideals upon which my country was founded. Now, as the father of a boy about to enter the school system, I am really and truly perplexed as to how to handle this. I think I will need the counsel and wisdom of my fellow non-dogmatic atheists to get through this one!

  • AmyB

    My son’s school recites the pledge each day (they also have a second kindness pledge) and then a moment of silence. I’ve talked with him about it, talked about what the pledge words actually mean. As an 8 year old he had no idea – they don’t teach what the words mean – allegiance, republic, indivisible, liberty, justice. These are important concepts but without some form of explanation children are just taking part in a form of tradition without any clue as to what they are saying.

    We talked about his options (He could sit it out, he could say the whole thing like everyone else, he could say everything but the “under god” – he could come up with his own way of dealing with the situation) and that I would support any choice he made (it is his school day after all!) and he decided to ask the teacher if children had to say the pledge. When he found out that with a note from me he could sit it out – that everyone had the option to not say it – he was fine with standing and saying all but the “under god.”

    Every child is different. My son is very literal and took it very seriously that he was making a pledge. My daughter will be different when her time in school comes. Will it be an issue for her…I don’t know. What I do know is that I wish children that didn’t know what a pledge is or what our specific pledge means would not be required to say it. It would be great if the “under god” were removed and the original pledge were the one recited but baring that atheist parents have to find a way for their children to reconcile this to their school day.

  • ss

    Which is why I am very grateful the Singaporean pledge says “…one united people, regardless of race, language or religion…” 🙂 thank goodness for a secular government.

  • Claudia

    In elementary school we had to line up military style in the yard and say the pledge facing the flag. I said it until I was old enough to pay attention to the words, at which point I switched to saying it and staying silent for the “under God” part. Living in Europe in a formerly fascist country people look totally horrified when I describe the scenario.

    In High School we were very explicitly told that the pledge, that we only had at assemblies, was optional (really liberal district). Maybe two thirds of kids would stand for it. I alternated between not saying “under God” and standing but not speaking.

    Though it’ll be a good day when we get rid of the whole sorry mess, I think in the meantime what really matters is the atmosphere in the classroom. It looks like the children of atheists are going to have trouble in conservative schools and do better in liberal schools, whether or not there is a pledge.

  • The Pledge time is an opportunity for teachers to make a mental note of who is feeling alienated by the Pledge. Who cares who says the pledge in regards to the fact that it doesn’t end up on a report card or a test grade? But those students who skip words or sit might appreciate the opportunity to explain what they are doing in their own words. After all, we know what all the other people were doing.

    That would even the playing field somewhat so that locker room talk wouldn’t be too severe and it gives everyone a chance to exercise informed tolerance.

  • I find it creepy to hear any group of people saying anything in unison whether it is the pledge or the Nicene Creed. When either occurs, people are just leveraging our innate tendency to follow leaders and groups and not think for ourselves. I think patriotism (or belief) should be for what the idea stands for… not just the habit or conformity of saying something. Although, when I’m in a situation of needing to participate in saying the pledge, I usually just stay silent for the “under God” part.

  • Gregory Marshall

    To me mandatory saying of the pledge is more than just a establishment clause issue, it is also a free speech issue. As patriotic American, I should not be forced to say any words that are non-binding.

  • Dave


    Thank you. I was not aware of either the wording of the legislation – I was uncharacteristically too lazy to look it up – or of Newdow’s previous efforts.

    I like the “crossing fingers is a time-honored loophole.” Personally, I skip the phrase when I recite it, and I’ve gotten some questioning glances for it. And should I ever have children, I will instill in them the idea that they have a choice to say it or not.

  • Annie

    As i understand it, the pledge was originally written to be inclusive of all Americans, whether you were born here or are an immigrant. The concept of providing liberty and justice for all is very appealing to me and why I don’t mind the pledge.

    My daughter (who declared herself an atheist at age five) has chosen to remain silent during the under god part. She has a very loud speaking voice, so it creates a noticeable decrease in the volume of speakers. But, I must say, the pledge has been great for her in middle school. Other children will actually say to her, “You didn’t say ‘under god’. Are you an atheist?” She simply says yes. At least five other kids this year have responded, “Cool! So am I!” So, in her case, the pledge is helping these kids identify other atheists.

  • nankay

    Our HS says the pledge on Monday mornings only. (I am a sub, but I work everyday here) I always sit it out.

    1) I don’t like loyalty oaths.

    2) There really isn’t “liberty and justice for all.”

    3) The whole under God thing .

    4) A group reciting something so “patriotic”/nationalistic skeeves me out.

  • Hiruc

    Patriotism has the same dogmatic foundation of religion, anyway. So the problem is not being an atheist to skip the “under god” part, but the whole thing.
    Why if you don’t believe in a supernatural almighty “father”, should you believe that the random fact of being born in one or another country should be something to be proud of?
    isn’t it teaching children to keep some xenophobic feelings?

  • Annie

    See, I don’t interpret it as a pride thing, but rather as a pledge to strive for something better in our country. And I sincerely hope for liberty and justice for all. It is not about your place of birth, but rather once here, to pledge to all work as one. At least that’s my understanding of the original intention.

  • Rieux

    Gregory Marshall:

    To me mandatory saying of the pledge is more than just a establishment clause issue, it is also a free speech issue. As patriotic American, I should not be forced to say any words that are non-binding.

    You’re right, of course—but unlike the “under God” issue, the free-speech angle is an entirely settled matter of law in federal courts. It is, without question, a violation of your First Amendment rights for anyone to force you to say the Pledge of Allegiance (or any part thereof), or to punish you for failing to say it.

    This doesn’t stop various local asshats from trying to do just that, of course—violations of the Constitution are unhappily common, as many of us are aware—but I would advise anyone who has been threatened with school (etc.) punishment for refusing to stand for the Pledge, or for refusing to say it, or for refusing to say “under God” to contact your local chapter of the ACLU. I’m sure they’ll be willing to send their specialty, the “knock if off or we’ll sue your ass” letter, to the responsible administrator. No tinpot school principal should be able to get away with forcing loyalty oaths on the students under his authority.

  • nankay

    Annie: That’s a very sunshiny interpretation, but not really what it says. You are pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth and to the country. No thanks.

  • Vas

    I’m a life long atheist. Up until high school I’m pretty sure I just went along with it and never gave it much thought. In high school, (early 80’s Central California) I stopped altogether, and for this I was subjected to beatings, on three separate occasions, by groups of fellow students. (note: I went to 4 different high schools and this only happened at one). I won’t belabor this post with details, as I have a busy day, but in my mind the pressure to recite the pledge is not a trivial matter and I know for a fact refusal to conform can have serious consequences.

  • Don

    I think the operative word here is “children.” They have the same right as adults not to be forced to recite a loyalty oath. They don’t have the same personal responsibility to enforce their own rights—that is the adults’ job.

    Parents of children—and their non-child-rearing neighbors—should be coming down hard on their local school board demanding that there be no pledging of allegiance, to anyone, in a public school. If the school board won’t see reason, that’s what we have courts for.

  • Verimius

    Let’s be clear: the Pledge of Allegiance is a prayer in itself — a secular prayer, but a prayer nonetheless. It is a prayer to the secular religion of patriotism. The Pledge is said with the same kind of reverence as a religious prayer. But, instead of a cross or god, this prayer is said to a flag.

    For many Americans, patriotism, like religion, is not open to doubt. But, as we should question our religious beliefs from time to time, we must also question our patriotism.

    “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…”
    George Bernard Shaw

  • Annie

    Reading others interpretations of the pledge has been very interesting. We are a nation of immigrants. The pledge was designed for all citizens (including immigrants) to pledge allegiance to our country. This makes great sense to me, as you certainly don’t want your fellow citizens owing allegiances to their motherlands (especially in times of war). The flag is simply a symbol for our nation, and the pledge even states this, “and to the republic, for which it stands”. I am failing to see the religious connotations many others see here, and think perhaps the attempts of poetics are being taken too literally.

    My husband is foreign born. When you become a citizen of the US, you must denounce your allegiance to your mother country. I see the pledge as a reminder of this, and other than the words, “under god”, have no personal problem with it.

  • Maury

    Just say “indivisible” and tell them you roll old school…

  • Old Fogey

    It might be interesting to compare my experience at school in the UK.

    In this country it is legally required for all state schools to hold a religious (Christian) service at the beginning of each day. BUT as far as I can find out, it never actually happens, and hasn’t for decades. Certainly there is an Assembly of the whole school in the morning, but this is just used as an opportunity to make announcements.

    Back in 1963, when I was 14, I realised that I was an Atheist. I didn’t mind the Assembly, which still had a hymn, a prayer, and a Reading in it – there was no seating, so I just stood there and ignored it.

    What I didn’t like was the Religious Education period; supposed (even then) to be for learning about all religions, which I could have enjoyed, it was used by the Vicar in charge to SAVE OUR SOULS.

    So I got a note from my parents to say that I was an atheist and was to be excused. This also got me out of the Assembly, along with a Jew, a Muslim, and a Catholic.

    And that was it. No criticism, no bullying, no objections, nothing.

    Except…. By 2 years later there were not 4 of us sitting out the Assembly in the library, but more like 50!

  • Vanessa

    Funny that the day you post this is also the day that my aunt decided to post the following on her facebook

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands, one nation Under GOD, indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all!! I grew up reciting this every morning in school. We no longer do that for…fear… of OFFENDING SOMEONE!! Let’s see how many …AMERICANS will re-post this & not care about offending someone!!!!!!!!

    I usually hate arguing over facebook, but I have to say something. Any suggestions?

  • Annie

    How about… “As an American, I really don’t desire to offend anyone. If people believe in the pledge and it is important to them, then let them say it. But at the same time, if someone doesn’t feel it rings true in their heart, respect that too, and honor their desire to remain silent. Our country is rich and beautiful because of our diversity. Let us celebrate this beautiful country by respecting everyone’s right to interpret and show allegiance in ways they see fit.”

  • Michael

    If you’re an Atheist, an Agnostic, or just an unbeliever, just leave out the words: under g-d, whenever you recite the pledge. As a member of the ‘Board of Directors’ at the gated community where I live in South Florida, that’s what I do up to 4 times each month when the pledge is recited before every meeting.

  • Natalie Sera

    When I was teaching, I never said the pledge either; I don’t think many students even noticed. And when I was a child, we had to sing Christmas Carols every winter, and I used to substitute the words “Cheesy Kites” instead of Jesus Christ, because I felt so wrong singing religious music in school.
    I feel very strongly that we need to get religion out of the public schools — that means Christmas and Easter, but also St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, and even Halloween. There are too many other things to learn rather than wasting so much time on the same, tired old Christian holidays every year. And a token Jewish song about Chanukah just doesn’t cut it, either — there are too many religions to do them all justice, and it’s really the institutions of religion that should be doing them justice, not the public schools.

  • gsw

    @Natalie Sera: “and even Halloween.”

    I did a quick – non official poll – have you any idea how many people – including catholic priests – do not know that Hallowe’en is All Hallows Eve and therefore technically a catholic festival?


  • maddogdelta

    I usually hate arguing over facebook, but I have to say something. Any suggestions?

    Well, when I was chasing soviet submarines around the Mediterranean sea while all our good chickenhawk friends were sending american jobs to china, I always remembered that my oath was to the Constitution of the United States…not to some scrap of cloth.

    Of course, now I’m a teacher in Texas, with potential layoffs coming up. I really don’t want to join the ranks of the homeless….

  • Coral

    The pledge never meant much more than lip-service to me. It was like when I had to pray with my aunt and cousins before having dinner with them, even though we didn’t do that at my house. But one day in high school we had a substitute teacher 1st period who ranted angrily at the poor Swedish exchange student because she didn’t stand up for the pledge with the rest of us, and then sent her to the principal’s office. We tried explaining to him that she was a foreign student, but he seemed to expect the same deep respect for the US from her as he did from everyone else. It really made me think and realize that having the pledge and the “moment of silence” every morning actually meant something, at least to some, and had consequences. It sort of scared me, actually, that people let it slide so much that this man felt justified in punishing a girl who wasn’t even American for not standing for the pledge, when anyone in that room had the right to remain seated with her.

  • Zima

    My daughter (who declared herself an atheist at age five) has chosen to remain silent during the under god part. She has a very loud speaking voice, so it creates a noticeable decrease in the volume of speakers. But, I must say, the pledge has been great for her in middle school. Other children will actually say to her, “You didn’t say ‘under god’. Are you an atheist?” She simply says yes. At least five other kids this year have responded, “Cool! So am I!” So, in her case, the pledge is helping these kids identify other atheists.

    That’s really cool. There should be more kids like that!

    When i was in school i never thought about it once. I didn’t think about much at all back then, if i remember correctly. What the hell was wrong with me…

    Anyway, i recently became a US citizen and the G word is in the citizenship speech as well. Though at least in the booklet it clearly lets you know that you can say “I solemnly affirm” instead, but i still don’t like the idea.

  • Vanessa

    @ Annie
    Well said!

  • anonymous

    I say under Reason. Next time I’ll skip the under part.

  • Matt

    My compromise when I was in elementary school was to stand during the pledge but not recite it.

  • Mr. Bill

    I used to recite the version from Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” comic which ended “…and to the republicans, for which they scam, one nacho, underpants, with liberty and juices for owls.”

  • Erica

    I can’t really see how children in Kindergarten listen to the words said in the pledge of allegiance and then sit back down and contemplate the words for the rest of the day before going home to mom and asking why the country is making them say the pledge when they don’t believe in a God. Come on guys. Even though I completely understand why you wouldn’t say the pledge of allegiance due to religious reasons, this isn’t the first decade where we have had kids who’s PARENTS do not believe in God say the Pledge of Allegiance anyway. Children are refusing to say the pledge these days because this is an era where people believe they can stand up for what they believe in (which is great!) but also subject their kids to following in their footsteps when the child hasn’t even been allowed to learn the differences between what their parents believe and what others believe. If you have an opinion about America, that’s fine, but don’t force your kid to stand out and refuse to do something because that is what YOUR view is.

  • Anonymous

    You know I don’t get the hoopla over this. It’s not an affirmation of the existence of God or gods. “…one nation under God,” merely means that God is of a higher authority. Setting aside the debate of whether God actually exists, assume that there is a God. Would not God, by the definition of a omnipotent and omniscient being, have more authority than a nation.

    To me the argument here boils down to two things. First, the argument of removal is a question of, if God existed, is this nation under him/her/it? And second, why would any Atheist or anyone for that matter shelter their children from opinions and differing beliefs. In many Christian practices as well as in other religions, a child is not fully apart of the religious community and faith until they’ve reached an age they consider to be old enough to decide on their own if they should join. Of course those ages are debatable to some, but I’m not going to argue that since the point is a child is given the choice. It seems to me that any tolerant individual would not prevent a child from learning about or experiencing divergent beliefs. And I would fully expect that if a parent were sure of their beliefs that they’d be able to answer or explain any questions or doubts of their child; or direct them to someone who could.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it seems to me that, assuming that my first point is valid, you aren’t being a good parent if you can’t explain something as simple as the phrase “one nation under God” without being afraid your child will suddenly become a theist.

  • I.am.spartan.1@ hotmail.com

    I Feel your pain. And growing up here in west Texas (really religious place) our state pledge has the words “one state under god”.

  • Think about it for a second or two.

    We’re talking about kids in KINDERGARTEN.   Children this young do not have the capacity to fully understand the
    implications of a god, and in the face of what undoubtedly appears to them as a
    world full of believers, are not equipped to stand up for themselves if the idea of a god doesn’t make sense in their young minds.

    So, how could making an impressionable young child recite a religious
    anthem 1,800 times over a 9 year period, IN AN EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT, UNDER THE SCRUTINY OF THEIR PEERS, be considered anything short of HEAVY indoctrination.

  • Anonymous

    First, you need to work on your reading comprehension. Nobody mentioned kindergarten. Second, you need to work on your reading comprehension. You did not address a single point that I brought up in my comment. I would like to say I appreciate receiving regurgitated response A4 and a complete lack of rational discussion

  • linn

    that is such a shame–but it is in the hands of GOD  REGARDING THE INNOCENT CHILDREN…parents be warned–if you do not have them under GOD’S PROTECTION THE WORLD IS NOT GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THEM??? but you will come up with so many excuses that will not make any divine sense — but to the evil world it may–out of blindness!!!–GOD SAID IF ANYONE TURNS THESE LITTLE CHILDREN OR STOPS THEM FROM KNOWING ME—the punishment would be more than i would want to handle—when and where – i don’t know–but HE cannot lie—in lack of knowledge–many perish–and that is the way the devil likes it..too bad the times have come for the teaching of GOD  is considered wrong.—-the spiritual deaths have begun.

  • linn

     and i am sure — when it comes to the time of your passing and the devil has you by the soul and you scream for JESUS and GOD  for mercy—they will stay silent for the ”save jeff” part——recap—on earth you say you don’t know me [[JESUS]]–then when the time has come and you are to enter in—-then i won’t know you.—too bad u sit on a fence.

  • linn

     your poor child—at 5 she doesn’t even understand the whole concept—and as a mother  i really feel bad for you…yes you can get angry with me and call me a name–i am not religious–but myself and many of my kids and their friends know GOD-JESUS CHRIST-HOLY SPIRIT–AND there is nothing  like having the arc to go on when the heavy floods come—

  • Dcj6966

    another case of minority rule

  • ye4jim

    School includes kindergarten does it not? That’s when it starts, and that’s when children’s minds are most vulnerable to indoctrination. All of your points lead to the same conclusion for you – that there’s no harm in making children repeat a religious mantra 1800 times during their most formative years, simply because you give them the opportunity to make their minds up about it later. The whole point is that they are NOT free to make their minds up about it. There’s nothing sudden about 9 years of indoctrination.

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