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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

God and National Unity

June 26, 2004

Re "A Pledge That Divides," editorial, June 20: The Times suggests that we all get past the bickering and just become united under a Pledge of Allegiance that has "under God" omitted. But it is fantasy for The Times to think that Christian people are going to throw their convictions overboard for the sake of a little cheap unity. Does anyone remember why this country was founded? If unity at all costs was the goal, the Puritans would never have taken the trouble to sail across the sea to follow their spiritual convictions. The tone of the editorial was that of a benign, liberal father whose agenda would bring enlightenment to all if only people were wise enough to adopt it. I don't think so.

The Rev. Dean Coonradt

Oxnard

So far, I've stayed out of the "under God" debate because others have carried the ball. But somehow the essential point never gets mentioned. Reciting the original Pledge of Allegiance -- "one nation, indivisible" -- through grade school, high school, college and two years in the Army, I grew up impressed by our oneness, assured that we were an indivisible nation. But look at us now. Our indivisibility has been shattered by the introduction of God where God isn't needed. I pray that we fix it before the damage becomes irreparable.

Donald Bustany

Los Angeles

At my grade school's assembly about 50 years ago, the school principal told the story of a boy who asked his parents who Richard Stands was. Puzzled, the parents asked the source of the question. "Why," said the boy, "he must be the most important person in the country. Every day we pledge allegiance to the republic for Richard Stands."

Perhaps unwittingly the principal expressed a truth that all of the pledge attackers and defenders overlook: The pledge is meaningless to those who recite it. It has neither religious nor patriotic significance to most schoolchildren. It is an empty, rote recitation forced upon them by teachers following school policies that exist because of custom and not because of philosophical commitment. In short, this is the proverbial tempest in a teapot. Those who care do not recite the pledge. Those who recite it do not care.

Morris Schorr

Woodland Hills

Your editorial, which, ironically, accuses Justice Clarence Thomas of intellectual dishonesty, wrongly asserts that we are a "secular, multicultural democracy." In fact, this country from its inception has been a religious, multiethnic and culturally unified democracy with a nonsectarian government. Unfortunately, leftist ideologues such as yourselves are battling to undermine these foundational values. Even more unfortunate is your failure to recognize the disastrous consequences if, God forbid, you succeed.

David L. Burg

Studio City

Can an unbeliever be patriotic? Not according to religious conservatives, it seems. They wish, no, they demand that we retain "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. They want patriotism and faith in God to be a package deal without the option of separation. Thus, unbelievers are deemed unpatriotic. This is a slap in the face to all the atheists, agnostics and other unbelievers who proudly served their country in law enforcement, fire departments and the military. Let's make the pledge for all Americans, believers and unbelievers alike. The pledge should not be the exclusive property of the religious.

Frank L. Atkin

Rancho Palos Verdes

I'm pleased to see The Times has shown its true colors. This year, strip God out of the pledge. Next year, out he goes from our money. Within a couple of years, the beautiful, totally secular USA that The Times dreams about will exist under President Kerry. The Times has now proved it is out of the mainstream, in the far-left corner of politics, and the critics who have stressed this for years are right. The vast majority of Americans will fight this effort to strip God from our public life and The Times will lose. Thank God.

Paul Knopick

Laguna Hills

If it is true that the "pledge cannot be seen as a serious invocation of God," as a letter writer asserts (June 19), then this is the strongest argument for taking the words out of the pledge: It is taking the Lord's name in vain. This is prohibited in the Ten Commandments. Reference to the sacred in a patriotic pledge makes no sense at all. Though it may be true that there are no atheists in foxholes, it should also be understood that God, who made us all, does not favor one country over another. Patriotism and religion should be kept separate to protect the purity of each.

Kathi Smith

Ojai

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