Re "Tiptoeing Around 'Under God,' " Commentary, June 15:
Erwin Chemerinsky excludes history from any role in interpreting the Constitution when he writes, "For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has held that government-sponsored religious activity is not allowed in public school classrooms." For the previous 175 years, prayer and Bible-reading had been allowed.
Evidently, the consensus of the founding fathers and of the Supreme Court prior to the 1960s is not as important as the secular humanism that began to dominate this nation's legal establishment at that time.
With all the discussion of the "under God" phrase, why has no one brought up the fact that the U.S. did very well without it until 1954? It was inserted as a weapon against communism, not as an act of "faith."
Charlene A. Scherer
Although wrong about everything else, Chemerinsky is right in saying that the Pledge of Allegiance is easy as a matter of 1st Amendment law. Reciting the pledge, or listening to others recite it, is a patriotic exercise, not a religious one; participants promise fidelity to the flag and to the United States, not to any particular God, faith or church. No religion incorporates the pledge into its canon, nor does any religion count the pledge as a meaningful expression of religious faith. The pledge cannot be seen as a serious invocation of God or as an expression of individual submission to divine authority, and any religious freight the words may have been meant to carry originally has long been lost through rote repetition.
Michael Newdow should not be given a "heckler's veto" over a patriotic ceremony willingly participated in by students simply because the Pledge of Allegiance contains the descriptive phrase "under God."
Chemerinsky wrote, " 'One nation under God' is just as offensive to an atheist." But it is not only atheists who are offended. As a person who believes in God, I think removing "under God" from the pledge is necessary and legally correct. We are all witnessing atrocities around the world being committed in the name of God. In our own country, we have an administration that is transparently seeking the support of religious groups based on narrow views of Christian theology. Let's get off any pathway that leads to any government support of religion or concepts of same.
It is my opinion that this is our country, our land and our lifestyle. Our 1st Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion -- and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom: the right to leave.
All the knee-jerk pious people just don't get it. They can add whatever they want to "their pledge." Any person, group or organization can customize it as they see fit. The issue is exposing young minds to a religious expression they or their parents object to as unconstitutional.
The question for the Supreme Court, the people in government and the public is, if the pledge today was as originally written, could or would Congress be able to add the phrase now? Any rational person would see such a ploy as clearly religious. This is not about patriotism.
Whose God? Since the phrase "under God" is not specified as a singular form of worship thereof, the establishment of religion is a nonexistent issue. The phrase does recognize that religion, through belief in God, abounds in a complexity of definitions and that the federal Constitution establishes those rights to varied worship. Those atheists who deny God's existence, along with the "don't know" agnostics, are not prohibited from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as it existed prior to 1954.
Jack N. Carl